Number of dead and missing following earthquake in China reaches 28,000
• Death toll continues to increase • More than 25,000 people buried. Prime Minister supervises life-saving efforts
DUJIANGYAN, China, May 14.- Despite torrential rain and blocked roads, Chinese soldiers struggled Wednesday to locate survivors under the rubble left by buildings destroyed in the strongest earthquake to hit China in more than 30 years, leaving, according to recent estimates, more than 28,000 dead or missing.
Official reports of casualties caused by the earthquake that shook southwest China list more than 14,866 dead, 25,788 buried and 14,051 missing, mainly in the province of Sichuan, according to the Xinhua news agency.
The number of dead continues to increase as information from remote areas arrives. Many cities surrounding Wenchuan, the epicenter of the quake, were left entirely destroyed.
"There are no houses (standing) in a number of cities and suburbs (in the Wenchuan area). Everything has been laid to waste," stated Wang Yi, police chief of a militarized unit.
"The situation is worse than we feared," declared a local official who managed to reach a settlement after climbing a mountain in Yingxiu.
Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao reiterated the importance of saving lives and encouraged survivors to have confidence that their homes would be rebuilt.