China cremates quake dead

China cremates quake dead

The death toll reached 1,339 with 332 missing, Xinhua news agency said, after a 6.9 magnitude quake hit Yushu county in Qinghai province, where most residents are ethnic Tibetans, devoted to their own branch of Buddhism.

Thousands of people converged on a hillside cremation site, where a convoy of trucks took hundreds of bodies that had been kept at the monastery. Many wept and chanted as crimson-gowned monks lit the piles of bodies covered in yak oil, wood and old tires.
Hundreds of monks droned prayer-chants as the flames rose above the trenches. “People will feel very sad for a long time,” said Dashi, a middle-aged local man in the crowd. “Tibetans have never experienced such a disaster in 2,500 years.”
Sky burial

Before the cremation, some monks higher up on the hillside oversaw a small “sky burial,” when parts of the dead were fed to the vultures. An ethnic Tibetan man called Zhaxi said one of the dead fed to the vultures was his uncle, Suona, who died in the quake. Zhaxi said the family had paid for the ceremony. “If you can do it, a sky burial is the best way, the most pure way,” said Zhaxi. “This is what our tradition expects.”

Others remain buried beneath crumpled buildings. Several people were pulled out alive from rubble on Saturday.

For the residents of Yushu, the mourning was an interlude as they struggled to put together their lives. Residents and army rescue teams, as well as the monks, picked through collapsed homes, looking for the dead and possible survivors.