Silent tribute as China mourns quake victims

China observed a day of national mourning on Wednesday for victims of its killer quake, with newspaper front pages bathed in black and flags lowered to half-mast around the country.

Top leaders and thousands of other people paid a silent tribute to the victims of the 6.9 magnitude earthquake that struck a remote area of northwestern China a week ago, leaving at least 2,064 people dead.

Another 175 people were still missing and more than 12,000 injured after the quake flattened thousands of mainly mudbrick and wood homes in the Yushu region of Qinghai province, a rugged area populated by ethnic Tibetans.

The whole of Qinghai held three minutes of silence at 10:00 am (0200 GMT), while state television showed Chinese President Hu Jintao and other top leaders in Beijing bowing their heads in silent tribute to the victims.

China has observed a day of national mourning for the victims of its killer earthquake, with newspaper front pages bathed in black and flags lowered to half-mast around the country.

"Please be silent for our compatriots who died in the Qinghai Yushu quake," said a sombre-looking Hu, surrounded by eight other leaders.

In Jiegu, the main town in the disaster zone, officials and rescuers stood silently among the ruins as Chinese flags planted in the rubble fluttered in the wind, state television showed.

And in the main square of Qinghai's capital Xining, thousands of military personnel, officials, students and citizens mostly clad in black stood in rows, their heads bowed under a light snowfall as sirens and car horns blared.

Throughout the country, the government and its propaganda organs seized on the disaster in a Tibetan region with a restive history to stress national unity.

"In solidarity with the people," read a front-page headline in the People's Daily, the ruling Communist Party's mouthpiece.

Aid and relief personnel have poured into the disaster area on the Tibetan plateau at an altitude of around 4,000 metres (over 13,000 feet), after delays that officials blamed on its remote location.

Wei Guijun, of the National Development and Reform Commission, China's top economic planning agency, told reporters the government had already sent 550 million yuan (80 million dollars) in relief funds to the quake zone.

Rescuers were still sifting through rubble in Jiegu, but snow and hail have hindered relief efforts and slowed delivery of badly needed supplies, while altitude sickness also hit many of the workers.

China's state meteorological agency forecast intermittent rain and snow in the coming days with night temperatures dipping to near-freezing.

On state television, grim-faced anchors delivered emotional tributes to the victims as they devoted all coverage to the day of mourning.

"Yushu, your suffering is our suffering. Your mourning is our mourning," a woman anchor intoned.

In central Beijing, authorities lowered the national flag to half-mast at Tiananmen Square, and flags were also to be lowered at Chinese embassies and consulates worldwide.

All major state-run newspapers and their online versions carried blackened mastheads while the websites of some government departments were also stripped of colour.

Entertainment activities have been ordered suspended, shutting down cinemas, professional football matches, some television programmes and activity related to the Shanghai Expo opening next month, media reports said.

Foreign entertainment-related television channels such as HBO and ESPN had their programmes blocked in China, replaced by a notice on a black background saying it was due to quake mourning.

International news channels such as CNN and the BBC remained unblocked.

source AFP

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