China Issues Major Aftershock Warning for Quake-Stricken Province

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Rescue workers resumed the increasingly grim task of searching for bodies Tuesday after thousands of jittery survivors of China's earthquake spent a night sleeping in cars and in the open, frightened by warnings of an aftershock.

Thousands of the panicked survivors ran into darkened streets in Sichuan province after a government warning of a major aftershock.

Tuesday was the second day of a three-day national mourning period declared by the Chinese government, following Monday's unprecedented display of grieving for the more than 34,000 people killed in the powerful earthquake one week ago.

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In shattered Sichuan, quake-weary residents carried pillows, blankets and chairs from homes into the open or slept in cars after a statement from the National Seismology Bureau was read on television warning there was a "rather great" chance of an aftershock measuring magnitude 6 to 7. Such jolts could cause major damage.

People in the provincial capital of Chengdu got in their cars and drove east — toward plains and away from the quake zone to the northwest. At intersections outside the city, clusters of people slept on bedrolls. Cars were parked along a service road to a highway, their drivers sleeping on the sidewalk.

In Mianyang, closer to the quake zone, a hospital moved patients into the square outside the rail station, setting up beds, medicine trays and tents.

The alarm compounded uneasiness in the region, which has been rumbled by dozens of aftershocks since the May 12 quake.

It came after China's more than 1 billion people paused Monday for three minutes of mourning — an observance that previously honored only the death of a top Chinese leader.

At 2:28 p.m., the moment the quake hit, wailing air-raid sirens and the blare of horns from cars, ships and trains signaled the start of the commemoration.

From the broad boulevards of Beijing to the shaken streets of Sichuan province, everyone stood still. Traffic halted in cities, soldiers stood at attention, and people bowed their heads in respect for the dead.

During the three-day mourning period, flags are flying at half-staff and entertainment events have been canceled.

The Olympic torch relay, a potent symbol of national pride in the countdown to the Beijing Games in August, was suspended.

China's Cabinet said the confirmed death toll rose to 34,073, although it is expected to climb. Another 5,260 remained buried in Sichuan, the provincial government said. Almost 250,000 are injured.

Eight days after the 7.9 magnitude earthquake hit, teams of rescuers here and there still picked at the rubble with their hands and shovels, but the effort has already shifted to recovering bodies. No survivors have been found since two women were rescued Monday morning from a collapsed building at a mine site.

Further reflecting the shift away from rescue work to caring for survivors, in Tokyo Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said a 23-member medical team will leave for China on Tuesday. Japan already has a rescue team working in the northern part of Sichuan.

Signaling it wants help to deal with millions of homeless and injured survivors, China said it would accept foreign medical teams and made an international appeal for tents to provide shelter for the coming rainy season.

More potential landslides were predicted by the Central Meteorological Observatory, with heavy rains forecast this week for some areas close to the epicenter.

Special stamps to help raise funds for earthquake victims went on sale Tuesday. Featuring three interlocking hearts on a red background, the stamp has a value of 1.20 yuan (US$.17) but sells for 2.20 yuan (US$.32).

China's official Xinhua News Agency said 13 million of the special stamps would be on sale through June 20. All proceeds would be donated to the disaster areas.
The State Council, China's cabinet, said donations for disaster relief had reached 10.8 billion yuan (US$1.5 billion).

The state-run China Daily warned Tuesday that people should guard against Internet fraud while donating for the quake victims. It said people should donate only through official channels. Two people had been arrested in Guangdong province in southern China for setting up a fake donation Web site.