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Troops, volunteers dig through China quake debris

LUDIAN, China (AP) - Some 10,000 troops used pickaxes and backhoes to clear roads and dig residents from collapsed homes Tuesday after a quake in southwest China that killed 405 people. Meanwhile, volunteers like goateed student Jackson Zeng used their bare hands.

Zeng joined a group of two dozen classmates who headed to Yunnan province's Ludian county, where Sunday's 6.1-magnitude earthquake collapsed thousands of homes in an impoverished region of mountainous farmland.

"I grew up around here and these are my people. I'm not sure what I can do, but I will help any way that I can," said Zeng, a third-year student at Kunming University of Science and Technology.

Zeng's black T-shirt contrasted with the scores of green fatigue-clad troops along the main road into the quake zone. Paramilitary personnel with a backhoe and other heavy equipment pushed earth from a stretch of road affected by a landslide, while Zeng and other students used their hands to push rocks over a cliff.

Many hundreds of volunteers have converged on the nearby city of Zhaotong en route to the quake-hit areas - a typical phenomenon during disasters in China. Many of them came empty-handed, but some were formed into company-sponsored units complete with uniforms and their own relief aid to distribute.

The government also has sent thousands of tents, quilts, sleeping bags and cotton coats to the region, as well as folding beds, chairs and tables, and mobile toilets.

The quake struck an area of steep hills and narrow roads not suited to all the traffic of the massive relief effort, and heavy rain Tuesday added to the complications. Much of the damage was due to landslides.

Ambulances, bulldozers and trucks filled with water and noodles and the squads of volunteers clogged the main road heading to the hardest-hit town of Longtou, about 370 kilometers (230 miles) northeast of Kunming. Helicopters hoisted supplies to the most remote areas.

The Yunnan Civil Affairs Bureau said Tuesday that 405 people had been killed and 2,297 injured, with 12 people still missing about 36 hours after the quake. Rescuers pulled dozens of trapped people from the debris in the first couple of days.

A 5-year-old boy was dug from a collapsed home Monday, and on Tuesday, state media released the photo in hospital of two pregnant women said to have comforted each other while trapped in the rubble before they, too, were rescued.

Many of the homes in Ludian, which has a population of about 429,000, were rudimentary mud-brick structures that collapsed easily in the quake.

Cai Jiangping, a 46-year-old corn farmer, pointed to where he and seven members of his extended family had lived on the other side of a river valley just south of Longtou.

"The house is a complete write-off. But we'll throw some plastic over it and then talk to the insurance company," he said.

Cai was sheltering with a group of friends, his motorcycle his only surviving possession.

Further from the worst-hit areas, landslides had created barrier lakes where water levels were rising Tuesday to pose a new threat to about 800 residents and seven power stations downstream, where sudden flooding could prompt power outages, the official state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.

The region is prone to earthquakes. In 1970, a magnitude-7.7 earthquake in Yunnan killed at least 15,000 people. In September 2012, a series of quakes killed 81 people.

In May 2008, a powerful quake in Sichuan province left nearly 90,000 people dead.

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Scores Killed in Chinese Earthquake

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1000|Char. 1000  Char.
scottee August 04 2014 at 7:40 AM

ebola, earthquakes, mudslides, wildfires...does anyone consider that the earth is trying to shake us off?

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2 replies
Joy scottee August 04 2014 at 10:30 AM

It's always trying to shake us off.

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Madeline scottee August 04 2014 at 10:38 AM

Earth, reputedly, has always been a roiling, rather unstable planet. A combination of increased knowledge about our world, rapid transmission of findings, from science-based to whacko, along with the constant barrage of off-beat, sometimes evil, human behavior might make us get really worried about our/the planet's "future." It might help if we back off the problem and go to something, anything, that's more positive (and healthy and legal) until we regain some tranquility mentally.

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1 reply
buddwhyzr Madeline August 04 2014 at 3:26 PM

Sounds like a job for Valium

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ram4131 August 04 2014 at 10:11 AM

12,000 homes collapsed? Seems they make everything over there but construction skills aren't very high on the list.

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1 reply
reginatorw ram4131 August 05 2014 at 8:06 AM

Given all things equal, there are very little enforcement of non-existent building codes, prefab materials and shoddy construction practices that include money under the table.
Many of those in this area are families that have either very little, non-indigenous and/or migrated. It is a beautiful area to visit, but earthquake prone.

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TruthBeKnown August 04 2014 at 4:55 AM

So Sorry. China sure has it's bad luck.
I think I am throwing my Feng Shui books out ~! There "is no good direction" It all falls down.

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Mike August 04 2014 at 6:38 AM

The problem with China is that everything there is made in China.

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1 reply
scottee Mike August 04 2014 at 7:40 AM

no, that's the problem in the US. we can thank the politicians of both parties who choose power and money and votes over fiscal and personal responsibility.

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1 reply
coopdabomb scottee August 04 2014 at 9:55 AM

Thank the over paid unions.

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cjshaefferdc August 04 2014 at 7:21 AM

The great, big government communist "peoples republic" od China sure seems to be afflicted with capitalist problems. Construction standards and enforcement are obviously lacking, no EPA bureaucracy to regulate greenhouse emmisions and worker safety issues nad deaths at a GM plant with no UAW representation.

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2 replies
scottee cjshaefferdc August 04 2014 at 7:42 AM

government and unions are NOT the solution. sorry.

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1 reply
Beverly Doyle scottee August 04 2014 at 11:25 AM

Sorry, scottee? What do you suggest instead? Nothing else that I am aware of has ever worked.

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Madeline cjshaefferdc August 04 2014 at 10:06 AM

To: scottee...government involvement/labor unions are best considered case-by-case. Always, without fail, there has to be balance. In human affairs power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Regardless of the issue.

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GUNSLINGER August 05 2014 at 9:57 AM

Let's talk about China! As The "U.S. BORDER INVASION"

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Mike August 05 2014 at 6:14 AM

I wonder if more people are being killed by the pickaxes than by the earthquake itself?

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paulatkinson22 August 05 2014 at 12:00 PM

They must be fracking all over China right? To have earthquakes like that? Right. Because here in America if anything in nature happens we blame man. Storms? Global warming. Earthquakes in the Midwest? Fracking. Drought? Got to be our fault somehow.

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coopdabomb August 04 2014 at 9:58 AM

I hope this won't affect obama's borrowing power.

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2 replies
gramargo coopdabomb August 04 2014 at 7:02 PM

Way to show sympathy there, but then I seem to recall you never show any for anyone for any reason.

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reginatorw coopdabomb August 05 2014 at 8:09 AM

At what point do you realize all you are showing is how absolutely ignorant your imbecilic comments are?

I get it, probably never.

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lancesammy August 04 2014 at 8:40 AM

china has one of the worlds strongest economies and is predicted to overtake the usa by next decade. one of the many reasons for this is that they do not spend money for their people including proper construction for housing and factories. they're also the worlds largest polluter including greenhouse emissions and they could care less. theie food products they export are tainted and not up to our standards so who cares if natural disasters lioke this happen. it's up to them to fix.

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1 reply
Madeline lancesammy August 04 2014 at 10:43 AM

Good points you have. But, actually, I think you mean "they couldn't care less", not that they "could care less." That would mean that they do, indeed, care at this time. Very common usage, but opposite from what is really meant.

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