Rescuers pulled out a four-year-old girl and a Tibetan woman alive from the rubble of an earthquake more than five days after they were trapped, as trucks carrying aid and equipment rolled into this shattered town in western China.
China Central Television said the pair had been trapped under a bed in a collapsed mud-built house in a village about 13 miles (20 kilometers) from the hardest-hit town of Jiegu, until rescuers dug them out on Monday morning.
Relatives kept Wujian Cuomao, 68, and Cairen Baji alive by sending them food and water through gaps in the rubble with the help of bamboo poles, state broadcaster CCTV said. The report showed the white-haired woman waving her arms as she was lifted onto a stretcher and put in an ambulance.
She was in critical condition, CCTV said, while the child was suffering from heart problems due to trauma.
The death toll from the quake in Qinghai province rose to 1,944, the official Xinhua News Agency said on Monday. More than 12,100 people were hurt. At least 1,100 bodies were cremated or buried by Saturday, according to the provincial civil affairs department.
In Jiegu, work mostly shifted from rescue to rebuilding on Monday as many search teams left. Thousands of Tibetan Buddhist monks stayed, however, picking at rubble with shovels, performing funeral rites and throwing food from the backs of trucks.
Convoys of military supply trucks were at a standstill, backed up for miles on the main road headed into town. At a supply depot set up on the town’s edge, huge stacks of bottled water were piled up outside a warehouse. More relief goods rumbled past mountainside hamlets where residents pitched government—provided tents along a two-lane highway that is the only connection between Jiegu and the provincial capital of Xining.
Bedraggled survivors streamed from their tents and chased the trucks, the women scooping bread rolls and packets of instant noodles into the aprons of their traditional fur-lined robes.
Army trucks sprayed water on roads to reduce dust, and mobile toilets arrived - just in time as the spread of diseases was becoming a concern after more than five days without running water.
Classes resumed at Yushi No. 3 Elementary School, with hundreds of students taking lessons in classrooms set up in tents. Most wore the blue-and-white school uniforms they had on when their classrooms collapsed on Wednesday.
The official Xinhua News Agency reported that at least 66 children and 10 teachers died, but that total was likely to climb as more remained missing.
The children trooped into the tents filled with small wooden desks and chairs salvaged from the rubble.
“Confidence! Hope!” the children chanted, led by volunteers from Beijing who had organized the temporary classrooms and were planning to build permanent ones.
“On the one hand students are coming back to resume classes. On the other hand, we are giving the students some psychological treatment after the disaster. We are trying to help them forget the disaster and not feel scared anymore,” said Danzeng Jiangcuo, a sixth-grade math teacher.
“Most of the students are living with their families and relatives. Every morning we notify them that classes start at 9 a.m. and finish at noon,” he said.
Painful reminders of the disaster were everywhere. Just behind the tent classrooms, hundreds of monks in crimson robes sat on the playground singing sutras, or prayers, for about a dozen earthquake victims whose bodies were stacked in the back of a nearby truck.
Their mournful voices mixed with the sounds of the children reciting their lessons.
“It’s Buddhist nature to help those in need,” said Cijia, a 21-year-old Buddhist student from a school in neighbouring Sichuan province 300 kilometers (185 miles) away.
He said monks have been performing funeral rites twice a day, morning and night.
The 1,200 monks from his school have no income and paid 500 yuan to 600 yuan ($73 to $87) each out of their pocket money to volunteer in Jiegu.
The surge in aid came as President Hu Jintao, who cut short an official trip to South America to deal with the disaster, arrived Sunday to inspect relief work at the remote Tibetan region where residents have frequently chafed under Chinese rule.
He visited displaced families living in tents and promised that the Communist Party and the government was doing everything they could. Tibetan anger over political and religious restrictions and perceived economic exploitation by the majority Han Chinese have sometimes erupted in violence.