Pensioner rescued after 195 hours under quake rubble

A woman who survived by drinking rainwater was rescued alive today after being trapped in the rubble of China’s earthquake for more than 195 hours.

The 60-year-old suffered only a hip fracture and facial bruises during her eight-day ordeal, which began after a landslide swept away a temple in the city of Pengzhou, Hong Kong-based Phoenix Satellite Television reported.

The woman was initially free to move, but a later aftershock trapped her between two large stones.

The official Xinhua news agency identified the woman as Wang Youqun, a pensioner, and said she had been unconscious for a day when a falling girder hit her head in the May 12 quake.

The tale of survival came after the confirmed death toll from the disaster rose to 40,075, according to the State Council, China’s Cabinet. Officials have said the final number killed by the quake was expected to surpass 50,000.

Five million people lost their homes in the quake, said Jiang Li, vice minister of civil affairs.

The government was setting up temporary housing for victims unable to find shelter with relatives, but there was a “desperate need for tents” to accommodate them, she said.

Nearly 280,000 tents have been shipped to the area and 700,000 more ordered, with factories working triple shifts to meet demand.

“Despite generous donations, the disaster is so great that victims still face a challenge in finding living accommodations,” Jiang said.

China has said it would accept foreign medical teams as the relief efforts shifted from searching for survivors to caring for the injured and homeless.

A Russian medical team with a mobile hospital arrived today in the Sichuan provincial capital of Chengdu, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said. A 37-member medical team sent by the Taiwan Red Cross organisation also arrived in the disaster zone.

A 23-member medical team from Japan also departed today for China, replacing a rescue team in the disaster zone, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said.

Crews of doctors were also en route from Germany and Italy, Qin said.

At the West China Hospital in Chengdu, staff were trying to find relatives of victims being treated. A relief tent in the courtyard doubled as a bulletin board displaying about 50 snapshots of people who had not been claimed by families, mostly elderly patients or children.

Liu Yuanzhong said his son lost both legs when his office building collapsed in the town of Hanwang. The 38-year-old man, Liu Rui, was a manager at a coal mining company and was attending a weekly meeting about safety issues when the tremor struck, his father said.

“It’ll be up to the government to help him, but we don’t know how much the government will do,” the elder Liu said. “His wife doesn’t work and we don’t know what she will do.”

Nearer the epicentre in the town of An Xian, a crew of volunteers arrived from Tangshan, the Chinese city that suffered the country’s worst quake in 1976 that killed at least 240,000 people.

“Now it’s time for us to help the others that are suffering,” said Song Zhixian, a farmer among a group of 15 older men wearing red hard hats and vests. “It is part of the Chinese virtue and spirit: when one place suffers, then everyone else helps.”

More than 30 sources of radiation were buried by debris from the quake, but all except two have been disposed of and the overall situation was safe, a news report said today. There were no specifics in the Xinhua report, other than saying that “nuclear facilities and radioactive sources for civilian purposes” had been buried.

The Chinese government has previously said all nuclear facilities affected by the earthquake were safe and under control, but did not give any details.

Elsewhere, a panda from the famous Wolong Nature Preserve that had been missing since the quake returned safely, but two were still unaccounted for, Xinhua reported. They were “very likely to be alive,” forestry official Xiong Beirong told the agency.

“Both pandas were adults and they are more capable to escape from dangers than younger ones,” she said. “We hope the two missing pandas are as lucky as their peers.”

The quake killed five staff members at the reserve and destroyed or damaged all of its 32 panda houses. The local government has sent emergency supplies of bamboo, apples and veterinary medicine for the pandas, along with food and tents for staff.

Oil and gas operations in the quake zone are virtually back to normal, state-owned oil and gas giant CNPC said today.

China’s banking regulators ordered banks to ensure adequate loans and other support for companies and individuals in the area.

Flags in the country remained at half-mast and entertainment events were cancelled on the second day of a three-day national mourning period declared by the Chinese government, an unprecedented gesture normally reserved for dead state leaders. The Olympic torch relay was also suspended.

More on this topic

Another quake hit Chinese region

Three pulled alive from Chinese quake rubble

China govt admits 19,000 schoolchildren died in earthquake

30 killed in Tibet earthquakes

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