Troops Race Clock to Save Chinese Buried Alive

Rescuers struggle in mud and rain as death toll soars over 20,000
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 14, 2008 4:42 AM CDT

(Newser) – China has rushed 50,000 more troops to Sichuan province to help dig for earthquake survivors before time runs out, Reuters reports. Tens of thousands of people are still buried under rubble from Monday's devastating 7.9 quake. Rescuers reaching the hardest-hit areas say the destruction is worse than feared, with the death toll now at 20,000 and likely to keep climbing. "Time is life," said Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who's overseeing operations.

Heavy rain means rescuers must struggle through landslides. Aid has been airlifted to areas cut off from the rest of the country, and rescuers have been parachuted into the heart of the disaster zone. Military and police teams battling to reach remote areas say entire towns have been flattened. In Mianzhu, near the epicenter, rescuers pulled 500 people alive from the wreckage of collapsed buildings.