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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.

Kim Jong-il has ‘pancreatic cancer’

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Kim Jong-il, the leader of North Korea, is suffering from pancreatic cancer and may die from the disease, a South Korean television station has reported, citing intelligence sources.

Kim, 67, looked gaunt and frail during a public appearance last Wednesday at a memorial for his father Kim Il-sung.

The report, from Yonhap Television News, was attributed to unnamed Chinese and South Korean intelligence sources.

It comes after a report in the Japanese media over the weekend that Kim has a “serious pancreatic disorder”.

Kim’s health appears to have steadily declined since the end of last year, when he was widely believed to have suffered a stroke.

Since then, he has only made a handful of public appearances and has seemed in worse physical condition on each occasion.

His youngest son, Kim Jong-un, has been widely tipped as his successor, and there have been widespread reports that senior army officials and diplomats have been asked to pledge their allegiance to the younger Kim.

Kim Jong-il’s poor health has also raised questions about the nuclear test and missile launches that North Korea has conducted in the past three months.

Analysts have suggested that the military actions are intended to pave the way for succession and to reinforce the position of the younger Kim.

Kim Jong-il took power in 1994 when his father died at the age of 82.

He assumed the title of general secretary of the Workers’ Party and chairman of the National Defense Commission, but has never taken the title of president.

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North Korea leader Kim has pancreatic cancer – TV

af.reuters.com

North Korea leader Kim has pancreatic cancer – TV

SEOUL -july 13 – North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, 67, has life-threatening pancreatic cancer, South Korean broadcaster YTN said on Monday, citing information gathered from Chinese and South Korean intelligence sources.

The report raises questions about leadership in Asia’s only communist dynasty and who will make decisions concerning its nuclear programmes.

Kim’s health is one of the most closely guarded secrets in the reclusive state but he is widely thought to have suffered a stroke a year ago, although there has never been official confirmation.

YTN said the diagnoses of the cancer came around the same time as the stroke.

A gaunt Kim with thinning hair made a rare public appearance last Wednesday at a memorial for his father and state founder Kim Il-sung. The stark figure he cast furthered speculation he was still ill.

South Korea’s National Intelligence Service could not immediately comment on the report, nor could U.S. officials.

South Korean financial markets took the YTN report with caution, saying it cast a shadow over sentiment.

“Such news highlights South Korea’s geopolitical uncertainty and risks and one thing that investors hate is any uncertainty,” said Lee Kyoung-su, a market analyst at Taurus Investment & Securities.

North Korea has been raising tension in Asia through missile launches and a nuclear test on May 25 which was met by U.N. sanctions aimed at cutting off it arms trade, one of its few sources of hard cash.

South Korean officials said this military grandstanding was aimed at helping Kim build internal support as he prepares for succession, with his youngest son seen as the likely heir.

SURVIVAL RATE LOW

The U.S. National Cancer Institute puts the five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer at 5.5 percent. The pancreas makes insulin and other hormones which help the body use or store energy from food.

Pancreatic cancer occurs more often in people who have diabetes than in those who do not, it said, and Kim has been long thought to suffer from diabetes.

Kim Jong-il took power in 1994 when his father died at the age of 82. He assumed the title of general secretary of the ruling Workers’ Party and chairman of the National Defence Commission, but has never taken the title of president.

His youngest son Kim Jong-un, born in late 1983 or early 1984 and educated in Switzerland, is regarded as the most capable of Kim’s three known sons with striking resemblance to his father.

If Jong-un were to take over soon, he is likely to remain weak, vulnerable and at the mercy of the North’s old guard for years, experts said.

North Korea places great emphasis on seniority and the ruling elite around Kim Jong-il, mostly men beyond 70, are not about to take orders from the son, an intelligence source said.

Separately, Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei of China was holding talks in Seoul on Monday to try to resume six-way talks his country hosts aimed at ending Pyongyang’s nuclear arms programme in return for massive aid and diplomatic rewards.

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