Two survivors found eight days after Chinese quake

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The Independent Online

As China entered a second day of mourning for what could be 70,000 dead in the Sichuan earthquake, there are still miracles happening. Rescuers pulled a 31-year-old man and a 60-year old woman to safety, more than a week after the earthquake struck Sichuan province on 12 May.

Wang Youqun, a pensioner, was pulled out of the rubble yesterday having survived on rainwater to stay alive for a total 195 hours. A Hong Kong television station reported that she suffered only a hip fracture and bruises on her face after being knocked unconscious for a day by a girder which hit her head during the quake. She was buried under the rubble of a temple, in the city of Pengzhou, which was swept away in a landslide. The television report said she was initially able to move, but a later aftershock trapped her between two large stones.

Ma Yuanjiang was saved from the debris of the Yingxiu Bay hydropower plant at Wenchuan, where he worked as a director, after 179 hours trapped under rubble on the second floor of the station. It took a rescue team of Shanghai firefighters 30 hours to get him out, according to the Xinhua news agency, during which time rescuers fed him sweetened water through a straw. Wenchuan is at the epicentre of the quake and is still largely cut off.

Aftershocks continue to hamper relief efforts, particularly around Wenchuan, while rain and searing heat is combining to make the process a torturous one. Mr Ma was able to speak and began to eat small amounts of food, said his workmate Wu Geng.

His left forearm had to be amputated and he was suffering from infection, but he was expected to live, said doctors in Chongqing.

Wang Weidong, president of the local hospital, said Mr Ma's condition was as fragile as that of a newborn. "Every drop of liquid into and from the body, even an emotional relaxation, could lead to death," said Dr Wang.

While there are occasional stories of miracles, the focus of the relief effort has now shifted to digging bodies from the rubble.

Sichuan's Communist Party chief, Liu Qibao, said about 9,500 people were still trapped in the debris, and their chances of survival were getting slimmer.

Amid fears of infection, rescuers are taking photos of the bodies, before disinfecting them and then burying them. The photos will be collected and sent to local government offices where relatives can identify the victims later.

"We took 30 cameras with us when we came for the rescue," said Tang Yanfengx, a brigadier leading rescue work in Pengzhou City, one of the worst-hit areas.

"Some people may never have a chance to see the bodies of their families, and we hope it'll be a comfort to those if they could see their last photos," he said.

So far 40,000 victims have been confirmed dead and a further 32,000 were missing yesterday. Five million have been left homeless. The region is dotted with tent towns as people move into temporary housing and wait to see what the next step will be.