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15,000 dead, 40,000 missing in China quake -

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15,000 dead, 40,000 missing in China quake

Broadcast: 15/05/2008

Reporter: Stephen McDonell

In China, as rescuers push to the heart of the earthquake disaster, they are finding entire towns
virtually obliterated.


TONY JONES, PRESENTER: In China the full horror of Monday's earthquake is slowly being revealed.

As rescuers push to the heart of the disaster they're finding entire towns virtually obliterated.

The State press is now reporting an official death toll of nearly 15,000, with 40,000 buried or

The AFP news agency says an Australian search and rescue team has been unable to travel to the area
because of the shattered transport system.

China correspondent Stephen McDonell reports from near the epicentre.

STEPHEN MCDONELL, REPORTER: The first aerial shots of Wenchuan, close to the epicentre begin to
show the extent of the destruction there. Buildings have been reduced to rubble, roads twisted and
torn and not a person to be seen.

But as much needed aid is dropped, survivors emerge.

Closer to the regional capital Chengdu, rescuers have been working for days.

At a school where hundreds are feared dead, troops rush bodies away from the scene. Then a rare
moment of triumph as a student is found alive.

But for most there's only loss and pain.

This women fainting with grief.

At another school there was more grief as rescue workers fought to free the trapped and injured.

At this building they used microphones to pick up voices and video cameras to find the victims.

Eventually a survivor was freed, but it was a painful escape.

China's deputy leader Premier Wen Jiabao has been comforting the victims. He told this girl "don't
cry, the Government will take good care of you".

As well as strong aftershocks, rain has increased the dangers of the rescue effort raising fears
that more buildings will collapse.

The worst hit areas are north of Chengdu on the road to Beichuan in town after town, the
destruction is everywhere.

As we've come further and further into the mountains we've seen more evidence of the carnage caused
by this earthquake.

In this village every house has been destroyed, more than 50 people have been killed and those that
remain, they're homeless and they say their food is running out.

We witnessed a makeshift funeral for an 80-year-old man in the rubble of his house. Villagers told
us he was a veteran of the Korean War.

Entire regions are without water so it's being trucked in from the outside.

Mianyang's main stadium is a dedicated meeting point, with thousands of people buried in this
region huge crowds are gathering to search for missing loved ones.

And still the trucks keep coming bring waves of rescue workers. Their time is running out to save
many more people.

Stephen McDonell, Lateline.