Survivors found as China marks week of horror

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The Independent Online

Two women were rescued in China today after a week trapped in the rubble of a collapsed building at a coal mine in Sichuan province.

The news of survivors came from the official Xinhua News Agency as it emerged relief workers are being killed by mudslides in some areas.

China stood still and sirens wailed today to mourn tens of thousands of earthquake victims in the country's deadliest disaster in a generation.

Construction workers, shopkeepers and bureaucrats across the bustling nation of 1.3 billion people paused for three minutes of tribute - exactly one week after the magnitude 7.9 quake hit central China.

Air-raid sirens and the horns of cars and buses sounded in memory of the dead, expected to surpass 50,000.

The confirmed death toll from the 12 May quake rose to 34,073, the State Council, China's Cabinet, said today. Another 5,260 remained buried in Sichuan and 29,418 were missing, the provincial government said, according to Xinhua.

Officials have said they expect final deaths in the disaster to exceed 50,000, with more than 245,000 reported as injured.

In the quake area, more than 200 relief workers were buried over the past three days by mudslides while working to repair roads in Sichuan, Xinhua reported.

An official confirmed there had been mudslides causing some deaths but gave no details. "The total death toll is still being counted," said the official at the Sichuan provincial Communications Department who only gave his last name, Shi.

More potential landslides were predicted by the Central Meteorological Observatory, with heavy rains forecast this week for some areas close to the epicentre.

In an indication of the challenge in dealing with millions of homeless and injured survivors, China said it would accept foreign medical teams and issued an international appeal for tents.

Foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a statement that tents were a priority "because many houses were toppled in the quake and because it is the rainy season" .

The military was still struggling to reach areas cut off by the earthquake, with more than 10,000 people discovered stranded in Yinxiui valley near the epicentre, China National Radio said today. There was no information on casualties there, and 600 soldiers were hiking into the area.

Quake-related losses to Chinese companies has totalled almost £5bn, deputy industry minister Xi Guohua said today.

During three days of national mourning ordered by the government, flags were to fly at half-staff and entertainment events were cancelled - an unprecedented outpouring of state sympathy on a level normally reserved for dead leaders.

The Olympic torch relay, a potent symbol of national pride in the countdown to August's much-anticipated Beijing games, was suspended.

Rescuers in quake-hit Beichuan, who had been working since the morning to reach a victim buried in rubble whose ear was visible, also paused today during the moment of tribute.

Traffic on the capital's roads stopped. Some drivers got out of their cars while others blared their horns.

Trade on China's stock and commodities exchanges was also suspended for the three-minute period of silence, the Securities Regulatory Commission said.

The government ordered all internet entertainment and game sites to be taken off-line for the mourning period and users redirected to sites dedicated to quake victims, the Chinese news web portal said.

In a sign the search for survivors was concluding, Japan said it was considering withdrawing rescue crews it had sent to China to be replaced with an expanded medical team because of declining opportunities to hunt for trapped victims.