China: Quake Toll May Reach 50,000

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China's government is getting desperate in its efforts to rescue survivors of this week's massive earthquake. Officials now say the death toll could go as high as 50,000 people.

Three days after the quake shook the central part of the country, rescue crews looking for survivors have changed to the grim task of recovering bodies.

The Chinese government is asking for rescue equipment to dig through all the rubble, a rare call for help from the public. Rescue workers continue to work alongside 100,000 Chinese soldiers, who have been deployed to the quake zone. But there's not enough heavy equipment to dig through all the destruction.

Ten million people were directly affected by Monday's tremor. At least 12,300 people remain buried and another 102,100 were injured in Sichuan province, where the quake was centered, the vice governor told reporters.

Operation Blessing and CBN China are in the disaster area, delivering relief goods and handing out drinking water.

"We also sent 14 relief vehicles with Operation Blessing into Mianyang," said CBN China General Manager Kara Waddell. "Mianyang is the city where 18,000 people are still missing in the rubble. We're sending in tents, blankets and other relief supplies."

The need is still great for food, water, and medicine. In many areas, the relief goods have to be dropped by air, since the mountain roads are so badly damaged.

It is also estimated that up to a half million people may now be homeless.

"I've been looking around ," said one woman. "But after I came back everything here has been leveled."

Many people are now finding shelter in makeshift refugee camps that do not have electricity or water.

"We have given what we have purchased today to the Red Cross, and hopefully they will organize all these efforts, and to alleviate the suffering of the victims, of the local people," said Operation Blessing's Paul Yang.

"This is only a beginning of this battle, and a long way lies ahead of us," Vice Health Minister Gao Qiang told reporters in Beijing. "We will never give up hope," he said. "For every thread of hope, our efforts will increase 100-fold. We will never give up."

Some army units are also checking out potentially dangerous cracks in several reservoir dams. A broken dam could have a catastrophic impact.

Sources: The Associated Press, Operation Blessing

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