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China quake buries nearly 900 students in Sichuan, 50 confirmed dead
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22:19, May 12, 2008

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· 7.8 Richter scale earthquake hits SW China
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Rescuers have recovered at least 50 bodies from the debris of a high school building that collapsed and buried almost 900 students in Monday's earthquake in southwest China.

The tragedy occurred at Juyuan Middle School in Juyuan Township of Dujiangyan City, Sichuan Province, about 100 kilometers from the epicenter in Wenchuan County.

An unknown number of students were also reported buried after buildings collapsed at five other schools in the province's Deyang City, where a quake measuring 5.4 on the Richter scale occurred at 4:21 p.m. on Monday, according to the Sichuan provincial seismological bureau.

Local government officials are assessing the situation and rescuers are searching for the trapped students.

Deyang is about 58 kilometers from the provincial capital of Chengdu. Communications and the electricity supply in the quake-affected areas were cut after the quake.

Sichuan provincial education authorities have required schools and kindergartens in the quake-hit areas to close from Tuesday till further notice.

Xinhua reporters saw a three-story school building had partially collapsed at the Juyuan Middle School in Dujiangyan City. Some buried teenagers were struggling to free themselves from the ruins while others were calling for help. Eight excavators were working at the site.

Devastated parents watched as five cranes worked at the site and an ambulance waited.

A tearful mother said her son, 9th-grader Zhang Chengwei, was buried in the ruins.

Two girls said they escaped because they had "run faster than others".

"It was around 2:30 pm, and the building suddenly began to rock back and forth," one of them said.

A villager said the school had 18 classes, all 8th and 9th graders, with about 50 students in each class.

"We ran out of the house when the quake hit," said Gao Shangyuan, a villager who lives close to school and helped with the rescue work.

Gao and other villagers helped dozens of students out of the ruins. "Some had jumped out of the window and a few others ran down the stairs that did not collapse."

The quake, measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale, has killed at least 107 nationwide by 6 p.m., said the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

Source: Xinhua



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