Children under rubble need our help

2008-05-14 11:04:05 GMT       2008-05-14 19:04:05 (Beijing Time)       SINA English

DUJIANGYAN, China, May 14 -- Nearly 180 schoolchildren taking their afternoon nap were crushed to death when the powerful earthquake struck China's southwest, state media reported Wednesday.

The toll at the middle school is not the biggest in Sichuan province, but provides a snapshot of the scale of destruction caused by the 7.9-magnitude quake -- and the often meagre difference between life and death.

According to officials quoted by China's state news agency Xinhua, Monday's tremor caused a three-storey building to collapse at the school in Qingchuan county.

Chen Zhengyong, who heads the county government, said nearly 300 children were buried under the rubble while they were napping.

As of Wednesday, 178 were confirmed dead, 84 had been rescued alive and 23 were still missing.

Another 139 were able to escape when the quake struck, he added.

Across Sichuan and neighbouring regions, tens of thousands of people have been killed in the disaster or buried under collapsed buildings.

Official figures put the death toll so far at nearly 15,000, but that has been rising almost by the hour as more details emerge from the worst-affected areas, some of which have only just been reached by rescue teams.

A particularly horrifying aspect has been the number of schools destroyed, raising questions over their safety.

Among other cases, at least 1,000 staff and teachers were dead or missing at a middle school in Beichuan, while hundreds were feared buried at another school in Juyuan.

(Agencies)

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