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China quake survivors spend second night in freezing cold

Battling bitingly cold weather and a lack of oxygen, rescue workers clawed with their bare hands through the rubble of homes and schools toppled by the 6.9 magnitude quake that hit Yushu county in Qinghai province on Wednesday.

Officials said medical teams and supplies such as tents and quilts were on their way to the zone, where doctors set up makeshift hospitals to treat victims of the deadliest quake in China in two years.

But thousands spent another night without shelter in freezing temperatures after the quake destroyed almost all the mudbrick and wooden houses in Jiegu, the local capital, and flattened schools.

“I lost my husband and I lost my house,” Gandan, a Jiegu resident, told AFP, her son and daughter at her side. All three were living in a tent with other people, with one bowl of barley to share.

“We don’t know what to do, we have no food,” she said, standing by the tent a stone’s throw from her collapsed mud and brick house.

China quake devastates stunned town

The number who perished rose to 760, including dozens of children, while 11,477 were injured, the official Xinhua news agency said, quoting rescue coordinators.

The death toll is expected to rise further, with 243 still buried, and local officials say they were short of medical supplies and large digging equipment.

“The rescue job in this disaster zone faces many difficulties,” said Miao Chonggang, of the China Earthquake Administration, which is coordinating more than 7,000 rescuers.

President Hu Jintao cut short a Latin American tour and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao postponed a trip to Southeast Asia.

Hu told a news conference in Brasilia the quake was “a huge calamity which resulted in big losses of human life”.

Chinese president calls quake ‘huge calamity’

Wen on Thursday visited the quake zone, an underdeveloped area of the Tibetan plateau known as the “Roof of the World”.

“The top priority is to save people. We will never give up even if there is only a slim hope,” Wen told a meeting at the quake-relief headquarters in Yushu, according to Xinhua.

Soldiers, police and firefighters used shovels, iron bars and bare hands to dig through the mangled piles of concrete and rubble from 15,000 toppled homes.

Foreign governments offered help as international aid officials warned that the priorities would be providing shelter, medical aid, food and water and ensuring sanitation to prevent the spread of disease.

Meanwhile tens of thousands of Internet users have been showing their solidarity with the quake victims by posting virtual flowers in online “mourning halls” and donating to appeals, Xinhua said.

Jiegu lies around 800 kilometres (500 miles) by road from the provincial capital Xining, about 4,000 metres above sea level, meaning rescue workers from outside the region struggled to cope with the lack of oxygen.

The government said electricity and phone links had been restored to dozens of towns but the difficult terrain, including deep canyons, and the bitter cold and remoteness of the area were hampering rescue efforts.

Dazed survivors told harrowing stories of loved ones crushed under their homes.

“There are 10 people in my family and only four of us escaped. One of my relatives died. All the others are buried under the rubble,” Samdrup Gyatso, 17, told Xinhua after his two-storey home crumbled.

Facts on China quake zone

Among the dead were at least 66 pupils and 10 teachers, Xinhua said, quoting local authorities, as grieving parents waited for news near the ruins of the schools, where discarded school books and clothes lay.

Xinhua said a baby boy had been born in a tent near the epicentre shortly after the quake.

“It must be the first life that came to the world after the disaster,” Huang Changmei, a doctor, told the agency.

“The baby brought hope to the ruined place.”

The devastation was reminiscent of the huge quake in May 2008 in Sichuan province, where thousands of children were among 87,000 deaths when their shoddily-constructed schools collapsed.

Schoolbooks strewn in China quake rubble as children perish

Xu Mei, of the education ministry, denied a media report that around 200 children had been buried in the ruins of a primary school in Wednesday’s quake.

In Beijing, Zou Ming, the head of the government’s disaster relief department, said nearly 40,000 tents, 120,000 articles of clothing, 120,000 quilts and food were being dispatched.

Indonesian quake leaves 46 dead, dozens missing

Indonesia Earthquake

Indonesian quake leaves 46 dead, dozens missing

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CIKANGKARENG, Indonesia – Rescuers dug through rocks and debris with their bare hands Thursday in search of dozens of villagers believed buried in a landslide triggered by a strong Indonesian earthquake that killed at least 46 people and damaged thousands of buildings.

At least 110 people were hospitalized with injuries from the 7.0 magnitude quake just off the coast of densely populated Java island, Disaster Management Agency spokesman Priyadi Kardono said, adding that 10 were in critical condition.

The earthquake Wednesday afternoon caused destruction across West Java province, where more than 18,300 homes and offices were listed as damaged, around 9,000 of them seriously, Kardono said. At least 5,300 people were forced into temporary shelters, he said.

Some rural areas could not be reached by telephone and there may be more victims and damage, officials said. Many of the deaths and injuries were caused by falling debris or collapsed walls and roofs.

In the village of Cikangkareng in Cianjur district, a landslide buried a row of homes under tons of rock and mud. At least 13 bodies were recovered and villagers were searching for dozens of people believed missing, Kardono said.

“Everything is gone, my wife, my old father-in-law and my house … now I just hope to find the bodies of my family,” farmer Ahmad Suhana, 34, said as he pried at giant stones with a crowbar.

Heavy digging equipment had not reached the remote village, which President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was to visit later Thursday. Police, military personnel and villagers used their hands. Maskana Sumitra, a district administrator, said 11 houses and a mosque were buried by the landslide and estimated that more than 50 people were trapped and feared dead.

“The chance of survival is so slim … but we have to find them,” Sumitra said.

The prolonged shaking from the quake was felt hundreds of miles (kilometers) away on the neighboring resort island of Bali. In the capital, Jakarta, 125 miles (190 kilometers) north, thousands of panicked office workers flooded out of swaying skyscrapers onto the streets, some of them screaming.

The Disaster Management Agency said at least 46 people were confirmed dead. Dede Kurniati said her 9-year-old son was playing at a friend’s house when the earthquake struck and is now “buried under the rocks.”

“I lost my son … now I just want to see his body, I want to bury my lovely son properly,” she said, weeping.

Hospitals in towns and cities across West Java province quickly filled with scores of injured people, most of them with broken bones and cuts. A tsunami warning was issued after the quake struck at mid afternoon but was lifted an hour later. Several dozen aftershocks were measured by geological agencies.

Indonesia, a vast archipelago, straddles continental plates and is prone to seismic activity along what is known as the Pacific Ring of Fire. A huge quake off western Indonesia caused a powerful tsunami in December 2004 that killed about 230,000 people in a dozen countries, half of them in Aceh province.

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Clashes over slums break out in Algiers

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Clashes over slums break out in Algiers

ALGIERS (AFP) – Youths from a slum in Algeria‘s capital clashed Tuesday with police in a protest against their housing conditions, leaving at least 11 policemen injured.

Similar incidents had occurred on Monday as residents of the Diar Echems working-class district of Algiers protested against their squalid housing and demanded new homes.

At around 3:30 pm (1430 GMT), dozens of youths were harassing riot police by throwing stones and other projectiles at them from an area that overlooks the road, which was closed to all traffic.

At least 11 police officers were wounded, according to an AFP journalist at the scene. The police practically sealed off the area, keeping the youths at a distance. Some of the youths wore balaclavas to hide their faces.

The police then brought in anti-riot vehicles and beefed up their presence to pre-empt further clashes and attacks on banks and shops near the area.

Residents of the district sometimes live 10 to a single room or in shacks, according to accounts in the Algerian press, and they have begun to protest at these conditions and press for better housing.

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