BEICHUAN, China – China declared three days of national mourning for earthquake victims and suspended the Olympic torch relay as the search for survivors of the disaster grew bleak Sunday.
The State Council said the mourning period will start Monday and include three minutes of silence observed by citizens nationwide starting at 2:28 p.m. (0628 GMT) — exactly a week after the magnitude 7.9 quake struck central China — while air raid sirens and horns of vehicles, trains and ships wail in grief.
All national flags will fly at half-staff at home and at Chinese diplomatic missions abroad, and public recreational activities will be halted, said the council, China's Cabinet.
Beijing Olympic organizers said in a statement that the torch relay would also be suspended for three days "to express our deep mourning to the victims of the earthquake."
The relay had continued last week after the quake on a more somber note, with runners starting with a minute of silence and asking for donations along the route. Organizers say the relay will be held in quake-hit Sichuan province next month.
The confirmed death toll rose Sunday to 32,476. Another 220,109 people suffered injuries, a State Council statement said. Some 9,500 remained buried in Sichuan, the provincial government said.
Officials have said the final death toll is expected to surpass 50,000.
Rescuers amputated the legs of a woman to rescue her after six days trapped under a flattened power plant in Yingxiu town, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
"She was in a delirious state" and told rescuers to leave her alone, thinking she was already in hospital, Xinhua quoted rescuer Ma Gang as saying. "We fed her milk and water, and her family was there to reassure her."
A man survived with head injuries after being pulled from a collapsed office building in Maoxian county to the northeast, and was expected to recover. Earlier in Biechuan, a "slightly bruised" man was also saved from a collapsed hospital after being trapped for 139 hours, the agency said.
Dozens of aftershocks have rumbled through the region, extending the damage and stretching the already jangled nerves of survivors. A magnitude 6 temblor on Sunday killed three people, injured more than 1,000 and caused further damage to houses and roads, Xinhua reported.
In Beichuan, a town near the quake's epicenter, few hopeful relatives were seen as soldiers pulled bodies from the wreckage. Several dozen corpses in blue body bags lay in a street.
"It will soon be too late" to find trapped survivors, said Koji Fujiya, deputy leader of a Japanese rescue team that pulled 10 bodies from a flattened school Sunday. "We hope with our hard work we will find more people alive."
Wu Hai, a Chinese rescue team leader, said bodies in the town being found were in the middle stages of decomposition and "many of the limbs are broken off."
"There are definitely many more (bodies) here. Locals here said several thousands have been buried here," he said.
Experts say buried earthquake survivors can live a week or more, depending on factors including the temperature and whether they have water to drink.
A Malaysian rescue team in the town of Muyu, further north, sifted slowly and methodically through the wreckage. However, they were not tapping on the debris, as other crews had done earlier, in hopes that survivors would hear and respond.
Dozens of students were buried in new graves dotting a green hillside overlooking the rubble, the small mounds of dirt failing to block the pungent smell of decay.
Zhou Bencen, 36, said he raced to the town's middle school after the earthquake, where relatives who arrived earlier had dug out the body of his 13-year-old daughter, Zhou Xiao, crushed on the first floor.
Zhou cradled his wife in his arms, holding her hand and stroking her back while she sobbed hysterically. "Oh God, oh God, why is life so bitter?" Liao Jinju wailed, over and over. The couple's 9-year-old son survived.
The World Health Organization said conditions for homeless survivors were ripe for outbreaks of disease and called for quick action to supply clean water and proper hygiene facilities.
"Ensuring supply of food and safe drinking water and trying to restore good sanitation are critical because these are basic transmission routes for communicable diseases," said Hans Troedsson, WHO's representative to China.
Chinese health officials have not reported any disaster-related outbreaks so far.
Meanwhile, flood threats from rivers blocked by landslides from the quake eased after three waterways near the epicenter overflowed with no problems, Xinhua said. County officials diverted the released water as a precaution.
Nuclear facilities jolted by the quake were confirmed safe and troops were sent to reinforce security there, air force Maj. Gen. Ma Jian, deputy chief of operations for the military's General Staff Headquarters, told reporters in Beijing.
China has a research reactor, two nuclear fuel production sites and two atomic weapons sites in Sichuan province, the French nuclear watchdog has said, all located within 90 miles (145 kilometers) of the epicenter.
Also in the quake area, three giant pandas were missing from the Wolong Nature Reserve for the endangered animals. Panda houses at the reserve were severely damaged and five staff members were killed, forestry spokesman Cao Qingyao told Xinhua. The 60 other giant pandas there were safe, the agency said.
Chinese President Hu Jintao urged rescue teams to reach remote villages battered by the earthquake where the level of damage remained unknown, according to Xinhua.
A group of about 15 people who surrounded an Associated Press reporter at a gasoline station in Mianyang city Sunday, appealing for help for their remote village, Xiushui.
"The government is doing nothing to help us," said one man, who identified himself only by his surname, Chen. "If I gave you my complete name, the government would track me down."
Chen did not say how many people lived there.
More international aid was arriving, with two U.S. Air Force cargo planes loaded with tents, lanterns and 15,000 meals landing Sunday in the Sichuan provincial capital of Chengdu.
The government appealed for more public donations in a live national telethon Sunday evening, where dozens of people dropped envelopes packed with cash into boxes.
Before the telethon, China had received $1.3 billion in civic donations from home and abroad.