HANWANG, China - Military helicopters dropped food and medicine to Chinese earthquake survivors who remained cut off Wednesday in remote mountain villages behind roads clogged by landslides, while the official death toll rose to nearly 15,000.
The official Xinhua News Agency said Wednesday that nearly 26,000 people were still buried under debris and another 14,000 people remain missing. Those figures are in addition to the official death toll, the Xinhua said.
As help began to arrive in some of the hardest-to-reach areas, some victims trapped for more than two days under collapsed buildings were still being pulled out alive. But the enormous scale of the devastation meant that resources were stretched thin, and makeshift aid stations and refugee centers were springing up over the disaster area the size of Maryland.
The official Xinhua News Agency quoted government officials as saying rescuers who hiked Wednesday into the city of Yingxiu in Wenchuan county — the epicenter of Monday's magnitude 7.9 quake — found it "much worse than expected."
The survivors "desperately needed medical help, food and water," Xinhua said.
The official death toll rose Wednesday to 14,866, Xinhua said, but it was not immediately clear if that number included the some 7,700 reported dead in Yingxiu.
The toll was expected to rise further once rescuers reach other towns in Wenchuan that remain cut off from the Sichuan provincial capital of Chengdu more than two days after the quake. Roads leading to Wenchuan from all directions were still being cleared of debris, Feng Zhenglin, deputy minister of railway and transportation, said in Beijing.
The death toll for Mianyang city was also confirmed at 5,430, up from 3,629, on Wednesday, Xinhua said.
178 schoolchildren confirmed dead
At a middle school Sichuan province's Qingchuan county where students were taking a noon nap when the quake demolished a three-story building, 178 children were confirmed dead in the rubble and another 23 remained missing, Xinhua said.
Storms that had prevented flights to some of the worst-hit areas finally cleared on Wednesday. Military helicopters were seen flying north over Dujiangyan, and Xinhua said two of them airdropped food, drinking water and medicine to Yingxiu.
Trains were on their way to Sichuan carrying quilts, drinking water, tents and military personnel, Ministry of Railways spokesman Wong Yongping said. All railways in the province were working except for a line where a 40-car freight train was trapped by a landslide in a tunnel and burned, he said.
Survivors pulled from rubble
Rescuers raced to save people trapped under flattened buildings.
A 34-year-old woman who was eight months pregnant was rescued after spending 50 hours under debris in Dujiangyan.
In the Beichuan region, a 3-year-old girl who was trapped for more than 40 hours under the bodies of her parents was pulled to safety, Xinhua said.
Rescuers found Song Xinyi on Tuesday morning, but were unable to pull her out right away due to fears the debris above her would collapse. She was fed and shielded from the rain until rescuers extricated her from the rubble
Premier Wen Jiabao looked over her wounds, part of his highly publicized tour of the disaster area aimed at reassuring the public about the government's response and to show the world that the country is ready to host the Beijing Olympics in August.
More update coming soon