Nation in grief as quake toll hits 32,476

Updated: 2008-05-19 06:26

China on Monday began a three-day national mourning for the tens of thousands of people killed in a powerful earthquake which struck the country's southwest on May 12.

At 4:58 am, the national flag at the Tian'anmen Square in downtown Beijing flew at half-mast after a complete flag-raising ceremony.

China's national flag flies at half-mast after the flag-raising ceremony on Tian'anmen Square in Beijing Monday morning, May 19, 2008. China on Monday begins a three-day national mourning for the tens of thousands of people killed in a powerful earthquake which struck the country's southwest on May 12. [Xinhua]

The State Council, the Cabinet, on Sunday ordered a nationwide display of respect for the dead.

The public are asked to stand in silence for three minutes from 2:28 pm on Monday, the time the deadly quake hit, while automobiles, trains, and ships would sound their air sirens.

All public amusements will be suspended for three days from Monday.

During the mourning days, the torch relay for the Beijing Olympic Games will be suspended to mourn the quake victims.

Beijing Olympic organizers said in a statement that the suspension starts Monday "to express our deep mourning to the victims of the earthquake." 

China's missions abroad were also ordered to observe the order, and condolence books are to be opened in the Foreign Ministry and Chinese embassies and consulates around the world.

A number of Chinese embassies and consulates Monday morning flew their national flags at half-mast in mourning for victims of the earthquake.

In New Zealand, Chinese embassy in Wellington and consulate general in Auckland flew their national flags at half-mast Monday morning.

Over 40 diplomatic officials at the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo, Japan, stood in silent tribute to the quake victims at a ceremony at 9:00 am (0000 GMT or 8:00 am Bejing time) in which the national flag was lowered to half-mast.

National flags at Chinese consulate generals in Osaka, Fukuoka, Sapporo, Nagasaki, Nagoya were lowered to half-mast at the same time.

A mourning ceremony was held at the Chinese consulate general in Rio de Janeiro at 5:30 pm Sunday local time (2030 GMT or 4:30 am Monday Beijing time), when the national flag at the diplomatic mission started to fly at half-mast.

Meanwhile, China's mission to the United Nations, Chinese embassies and consulates in the United States, Australia, Chile, Indonesia, Mongolia, Vietnam, Pakistan, Singapore, Malaysia, the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) also mourned quake victims with their national flags at half-mast.

The confirmed death toll from the disaster has risen to 32,476 by 2:00 pm Sunday, and the toll would possibly rise to more than 50,000 as many, still buried in rubbles, are feared dead.

And on Sunday, China Seismological Bureau Sunday revised the magnitude of the earthquake from 7.8 to 8.0 on the Richter scale.

The number of injured in magnitude 8.0 earthquake reached 220,109, it said.

In Sichuan alone, a total of 32,173 people were killed as of 7 pm on Sunday, the provincial government said on Monday morning..

Statistics from the emergency response office show that the death toll in Deyang and Mianyang cities of the province hit 10,341 and 11,874 respectively.

The office also gave a breakdown of the death toll in other areas as 4,156 in Chengdu, 2,586 in Guangyuan, 2,871 in Aba and 23 in Ya'an.

Outside Sichuan, the death toll was 364 in Gansu Province, 113 in Shaanxi Province, 16 in Chongqing Municipality, two in Henan Province, one in Yunnan Province, one in Hubei Province, and one in Hunan Province.

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