Exactly a week after a powerful earthquake devastated the Chinese province of Sichuan, this vast nation of 1.3-billion people united to remember its dead. At Chengdu in Sichuan province, air-raid sirens wailed heralding three days of national mourning for the 34 000 known to have perished so far. Officials estimate that number will grow to more than 50 000.
Nian Mao survived the tremor, measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale. “It was unbearable,” he said. “I lost so many of my relatives.”
Stock markets were suspended for three minutes. Cinemas are to close for three days. All public recreational activities have been put on hold.
The Olympic torch relay ground to a halt. Wearing white flowers, the Chinese president Hu Jintao, and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao led senior government officials in Beijing, bowing their heads in remembrance.
Trains stopped running. All national flags are to be flown at half-mast in China, and at Chinese diplomatic missions around the world. But in Beijing, there was a show of patriotism, as marchers chanted for Sichuan to be re-built.