More than six days after a powerful earthquake struck southwestern China, hopes are dwindling that more trapped people will be found alive. The official death toll so far is more than 32,000, but is expected to surpass 50,000. China has begun three days of national mourning. As Stephanie Ho reports from Beijing, Chinese leaders have repeatedly said saving human lives is their number one priority.
More than 60 earthquake survivors were rescued in the disaster zone Saturday, but by Sunday, the numbers had fallen. Chinese media reported at least one successful rescue Sunday morning - a man recovered from a collapsed hospital in Beichuan.
Reporter Daniel Schearf said after the earthquake,
Beichuan looks like a war zone.
"My first image, when I turned the corner into the town, was just a pile of twisted rubble and concrete. It was a hill, it was a mountain, of what used to be buildings, and it just seemed to stretch on forever," he said. "I don't know how to describe it. It just seemed very surreal."
One rescue worker in Beichuan, Luo Tanfei, says his team, which includes sniffer dogs, has saved 10 people in different locations since the huge earthquake struck the region Monday.
But he says he does not have too much hope of finding more survivors in that part of the city because they have not found any more traces of life.
Chinese disaster relief efforts include nearly 150,000 soldiers, who have been actively supporting emergency work.
People's Liberation Army leaders spoke to reporters in Beijing Sunday, and emphasized that soldiers are facing hardships and working together with ordinary Chinese people.
Air Force Major General Ma Jian also made reassurances that all of China's nuclear facilities in the area are safe.
"Shortly after the earthquake hit, we have sent teams of the armed police and PLA men to ensure that these facilities are under very strict protection measures and there is no problem involved here," general Ma said.
The Chinese government has allocated nearly $560 million (four billion RMB) for earthquake relief. Donors, inside and outside of China, have already contributed $860 million in money and goods.
China's Ministry of Agriculture says the quake has damaged 33,000 hectares of farmland. At the same time, the tremor has led to the deaths of 12 .5 million heads of livestock and poultry, which health officials say pose a major sanitation risk.