Rescuers' motto: Never say die

By Hu Yinan in Sichuan and Wu Jiao in Beijing (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-05-20 06:36

Every effort will be made to save people if there is the slightest hope, President Hu Jintao said on Sunday while visiting quake-hit areas.

Chinese rescue workers remove rubble as they search for survivors in Beichuan, southwestern China's Sichuan province, Monday, May 19, 2008. China stood still Monday in mourning over tens of thousands of earthquake victims, and the government appealed for more international aid to cope with the country's deadliest disaster in a generation. [Agencies]

And on Monday, one week after the catastrophe, exhausted rescuers clearly did not let up in their efforts to find more survivors.

In Yinghua township of Shifang city, one of the worst-hit regions, a Chinese-Republic of Korea team was last night trying to find a survivor whom the life detector indicted was still alive.

The detector beeped at around 2 pm, indicating life on the second floor of the three surviving stories of a five-story office building, according to Kang Jianguo, a member of the Henan firefighting team which is helping in rescue efforts.

It took almost six hours for the rescue team to build a rescue path on the devastated third floor.

Still, the twisted structure on the second floor made it hard to identify the specific location of the survivor, according to Kang.

Chinese rescuers carry a woman to safety after getting her out of the rubble of a market in Beichuan, Sichuan province, May 19, 2008. The woman was saved about 164 hours after a killer earthquake struck a week ago. [Agencies] 

Rescuers shouted, asking the person to knock on the concrete to give them a clue.

They heard a weak sound at around 6 pm through sound detectors, but were not sure whether it was from the survivor.

Rescue efforts were continuing late last night.

"It is so difficult. But we will persist. No matter what the outcome, we will stick it out to the very end," Kang told China Daily.

The ROK team has been involved since the early stage of the rescue.

The 41-member group arrived in Shifang with two sniffer dogs on May 16, and has helped save 16 people in the debris of a flattened chemical plant.

They vowed to keep scouring the rubble until all hope of survival "miracles" is lost.

"Although the chances of survival for those trapped are slim, we are still searching for miracles," said team leader Kim Yong-suk on Sunday.

However, with time running out and the survival window getting smaller, work in Yinghua yesterday turned to clearing the ruins.

But yesterday also witnessed tales of survival, including 61-year-old Li Ningcui who was rescued at 10:42 am after being trapped under the rubble of a market for 145 hours in Beichuan, one of the worst hit counties in Sichuan.

The rescue team is still searching for survivors among the ruins, said Li Hongguo, head of the rescue team sent by the China Seismological Bureau.

Qian Gang, author of the book Tangshan Earthquake, said the 72-hour "golden period" considered the right window to find survivors was a typical timeframe; but many had survived for much longer.

Qian, who spent 10 years interviewing survivors of the 1976 earthquake in Hebei that claimed more than 240,000 lives, said it was possible that people could live after being buried for more than eight days if they had a strong will to survive.

He cited the case of an elderly woman who drank her own urine to sustain her for 13 days until rescuers pulled her out of the debris.

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