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Chinese man pulled to safety eight days after quake
CHENGDU, China |
CHENGDU, China (Reuters) - A 31-year-old Chinese executive was pulled alive from the rubble of a power plant on Tuesday, eight days after a massive quake struck southwestern China and killed an estimated 50,000.
Ma Yuanjiang was rescued in Wenchuan county, epicentre of the May 12 quake in mountainous Sichuan province, after 179 hours buried in the rubble, state media said.
His rescue came as China tried to restore calm in the provincial capital, Chengdu, after tens of thousands rushed into the streets alarmed by a television prediction of another powerful earthquake.
That, along with fresh aftershocks and forecasts of heavy rain, compounded the difficulties for military, government and private workers trying to ensure food and housing for millions of homeless.
Chengdu residents rushed from their homes before midnight on Monday, alarmed by the prediction of another earthquake after the 7.9 magnitude tremor on May 12.
A few hours later, a 5-magnitude aftershock rattled windows and is believed to have caused more landslides on the roads leading to Pingwu, the epicentre of the aftershock, where destroyed roads have hampered relief efforts.
But on Tuesday, provincial television broadcast interviews with a series of seismologic bureau officials to explain the prediction and calm a jangled populace.
"Just because you can feel aftershocks, it doesn't mean they will hurt you. Of course, that doesn't mean you should stand in harm's way," said Han Weiding, researcher with the local seismological bureau.
NERVES AT BREAKING POINT
The pandemonium showed how nerves have been stretched to breaking point by the earthquake and aftershocks, which have officially killed more than 34,000 people and injured 245,000.
"I think the television coverage is overdoing it. They're scaring people," said a hotel worker surnamed Li, who spent the night in a public park.
Postings on China's FTChinese.com have questioned whether the quake merits the vast media coverage it has received and some have argued that reporters and TV presenters lacked "professional knowledge", hampering relief work.
Cars jammed roads leading out of Chengdu on Tuesday. There was no report of damage to Pingwu, but Xinhua said on Monday that 200 rescue workers had been buried in landslides since May 12.
Ma's release raised hopes of further rescues. In 1990, a quake survivor lasted two weeks under a collapsed hotel in the northern Philippines.
Rescuers found Ma on Saturday when they were digging a hole trying to reach a colleague, Yu Jinhua, Xinhua news agency said.
"Following an amputation operation, Yu was rescued at about 6:00 p.m. on May 18," Xinhua said. "Rescuers then turned to Ma and sent sweetened water to him through a straw."
But rescuers mostly have the gruesome task of recovering decomposing bodies. Dozens were pulled from the rubble in the town of Beichuan and rescuers scattered lime and splashed disinfectant to prevent disease.
The number of dead from the May 12 quake, the worst to hit China since 1976, is expected to rise dramatically. The Communist Party chief in Sichuan said on Monday nearly 30,000 were still missing and a further 5,000 were believed buried under rubble.
Rescuers had reached the most remote areas of the province by Monday, but roads to some 50 affected towns and villages were still blocked by rocks and mudslides.
Whole towns have been flattened in mountainous areas north and west of Chengdu, and about 4.8 million people are homeless. Housing and feeding during the long-term rebuilding effort will prove a major challenge.
On Monday, sirens wailed and horns honked across China, from tent cities in Sichuan province to Beijing's Tiananmen Square, and millions of Chinese stood for three minutes to mourn the dead exactly a week after the quake struck.
All cinemas have closed for three days and "public recreational activities" have been suspended. Foreign entertainment channels have been taken off the air.
On Monday, the Foreign Ministry appealed to the international community to provide more tents for about 4.8 million people. The central bank reiterated calls for banks to set up branches and lend to companies in ruined areas.
So far, 10.8 billion yuan ($1.55 billion) has been received from donors at home and abroad, China said.
The quake warning also prompted panic in neighbouring Chongqing municipality and Guizhou province.
"The panic was much worse in Guizhou, where reports of a frog and toad migration also spread public fear," Xinhua said.
In Tongzi county in Zunyi, a city in the north of Guizhou that borders Sichuan and Chongqing, "some villagers said they saw a massive migration of frogs and toads on Monday night, which they took as quake forecast", Xinhua said, quoting Zunyi's Vice Mayor, Zeng Yongtao.
He said the city government was investigating.
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