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Deep condolence to all victims in earthquake

China starts national mourning for quake victims

Updated: 2008-05-19 12:28

BEIJING -- China starts a grandest national mourning on Monday, the first-ever of its kind for its commoners, to lament the deceased in the deadly quake that struck Sichuan province on May 12.

At 4:58 a.m., the national flag at the Tian'anmen Square in downtown Beijing was lowered to half-mast after a complete flag-raising ceremony. The ceremony was attended by about 2,600 people.

Many people, including some TV anchors, wore clothes in cold colors of white, blue and black, which symbolize sobriety and sadness in China, to show their respect to the more than 32,476 people already confirmed dead nationwide after the magnitude-8.0 quake.

The government has put an estimated death toll at more than 50,000.

"I have been watching TV to know the disaster situation these days," said Yu Huilin, a 58-year-old retired teacher, after observing the Tiananmen ceremony. Yu arrived in Beijing by bus in the early hours on Monday from eastern Shandong Province.

"It's really heartrending," she said. "But I see the quake-affected people have got help from so many people. I believe they could recover from the disaster soon rebuild their homes."

All national flags flew at half-mast at home since Monday on for three days and Chinese diplomatic missions abroad will do the same.

Public recreational activities were also halted during the mourning period, including the Olympic torch relay.

Monday marks the seventh day after the quake that killed more than 30,000. According to Chinese tradition, memorial ceremonies on the seventh day is especially important after a person's death, which were believed to help grant him a better afterlife.

According to a State Council circular, at 2:28 p.m. Chinese citizens nationwide will stand in silence for three minutes to mourn for the victims, while air raid sirens and horns of automobiles, trains and ships will wail in grief.

During the three minutes, the stock market will be temporarily closed.

China's Foreign Ministry and Chinese embassies and consulates around the world also opened condolence books for foreign diplomats and people around the world to express respect.

The death toll from the massive quake rose to 32,476 nationwide as of 2 p.m. Sunday, while the injured numbered 220,109, according to the emergency response office under the State Council.

Among the dead, 31,978 were in Sichuan alone with the rest in six other provinces and a municipality.