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Anguish and hope as rescue lasts into third day

08-11-2010 09:11 BJT Special Report:China Fights Worst Flood in Decades |

ZHOUQU, Gansu, Aug. 10 (Xinhua) -- Wang Wei missed the call of his life.

An unanswered phone call from his home in the early hours of Sunday was probably his wife's last hope of survival.

Wang did not hear the ring, as he was guarding 18 detainees at the detention center in Zhouqu County, northwest China's Gansu Province, that night.

When a massive mudslide swept through the county after midnight and ripped houses from their foundations, the armed police officer forgot about his family until after the detainees were evacuated.

His wife has not been found in the rubble of their home, now covered with a thick layer of mud and sludge.

Despite his grief, Wang joined more than 7,000 troops who are searching for lives in the mudslide-leveled county of Zhouqu.

Armed with simple, primitive tools like shovels, hoes and ropes, they raced against the clock battling through sludge and rubble, spurred by the miraculous survival of a 52-year-old Tibetan man Tuesday morning, 58 hours after the disaster.

The man, by name of Liu Ma Shindan, was rescued at 11:20 a.m. in the ruins of a residential building for telecommunication workers in the county seat.

Liu, whose name is half Tibetan, half Han Chinese like many locals -- as a result of intermarriage between the two ethnic groups -- was saved by rescuers from the neighboring Sichuan Province.

His heart rate and blood pressure were normal and there were no apparent injuries, said Dr. Du Bin from Beijing Union Hospital.

Liu's relatives said he was deaf and mute and were apparently too weak from hunger and thirst to complain of any discomfort.

He received first-aid at the site. A military helicopter was prepared to take him to Lanzhou, the provincial capital, for a thorough exam and treatment Tuesday afternoon.

Over the past 24 hours, rescuers from the Lanzhou Area Command of the People's Liberation Army have helped 14 people out of isolated apartment buildings surrounded by water and mud. Most of them were elderly, children or invalids who were too weak to leave home.

In the meantime, rescuers try to find signs of life in the rubble -- where most of the estimated 1,148 people missing were believed to be trapped. At least 337 people are dead.


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