One week after quake, China mourns its dead

China begun three days of national mourning Monday after the devastating earthquake that has taken the lives of at least 32 500 people, a number that could grow to 50 000 as more corpses are found in the ruins. (Report: M. Henbest)


China has begun a national three-day period of mourning, unprecedented in scope, for the over 30 000 deaths and 200 000 injuries arising from last week’s cataclysmic earthquake in Sichuan.


FRANCE 24 correspondent Henry Morton witnessed the mourning firsthand from Chengdu in the hard-hit Sichuan province: “For the three-minute moment of silence, thousands of people faced the national flag, flown at half mast, with their hands clasped and raised in the air. At the moment marking exactly one week after the quake hit (2:28 p.m. local time; 8:28 GMT+2), air raid sirens were heard; cars honked their horns, and the people stood in total silence. It was a very sombre moment.”


Sébastien le Belzic, another FRANCE 24 correspondent reporting from Chengdu, added that schools and public buildings are closed for the period.


The Chinese media, including print, Internet, and broadcast, uniformly devoted their content to mourning. The People’s Daily - official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party - and the Beijing Times ran in black and white instead of the usual colour. Even Internet portals such as Yahoo China ran in black and white. On some sites, links normally leading to entertainment news forwarded readers directly to pages devoted to earthquake news.


Presenters on state television wore black, and Beijing Television announced that it would suspend all programming for the three day mourning period in favour of quake coverage. reported that at Sunday’s scheduled awards ceremony at China Central Television (CCTV), the red carpet and awards ceremony were cancelled, though the nation’s top entertainers showed up nonetheless to express their condolences. China Daily pledged to donate 6 million yuan ($860,000) for quake relief.


The nationwide expression of condolences was by no means limited to the media; the national flag in Beijing’s historic Tiananmen Square flew at half-mast, and the Olympic torch relay, currently in its China leg, has been suspended for the three-day mourning period.


The Chinese news agency Xinhua quoted a 25-year old Beijing resident: “I feel so sad. This does not bode well, 2008 was supposed to be our year of celebration,” he said, referring to this year’s 2008 Olympics in Beijing.


The aftermath of the quake continues to take its toll; in addition to the 70,000 dead or missing, an estimated 4.8 million have lost their homes. The Transport Ministry reported on Monday that more than 200 relief workers had been buried by mudflows in recent days.


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