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Man Alive Nearly 179 Hours After Quake

Ma Yuanjiang, a power plant executive, was rescued at around 00:50 AM on Tuesday from the rubble in Wenchuan County of southwest China's Sichuan Province, nearly 179 hours after the May 12 earthquake.

His internal organs were in good condition, but the left forearm had to be amputated, said doctors of the Chongqing Xinqiao Hospital affiliated to the No. Three University of Medical Science of the Chinese People's Liberation Army. Ma was rushed to the hospital in Chongqing at 3:00 PM on Tuesday.

Ma also suffered from soft tissue infections.

After being buried in debris for 179 hours, Ma's body was "as fragile as that of a newborn baby. Every drop of liquid into and from the body, even an emotional relaxation, could lead to death," according to hospital president Wang Weidong.

Ma's urine and transfusion were measured by "millipounds per hour", Wang added. "The next 12 hours are crucial for Ma's survival. The patient finished the first half of a life miracle, now we are trying to do the second."

Ma was surprisingly able to speak after being rescued, and shortly after he began to eat a little, said Wu Geng, Ma's colleague and also head of the power plant, who was at the rescue spot.

Ma was at a meeting when the magnitude 8.0 earthquake ravaged the plant office building, and he was trapped in the debris of the second floor, which has presented huge difficulties for rescuers.

The 31-year-old survivor was pulled out by a Shanghai rescue team after more than 30 hours' efforts.

Rescuers found Ma in the afternoon of May 18 when they were digging a hole trying to reach Yu Jinhua, a colleague of Ma.

After an amputation operation, Yu was rescued at about 6:00 PM on May 18. Rescuers then turned to Ma and sent sweetened water to him through a straw.

The collapsed building left little room for rescuers to reach Ma. More than 100 members of the Shanghai Police and Firefighters Disaster Rescue Team, by resorting to equipment including mechanized hammers and shovels, dug inch by inch and endured the warm weather.

Nearly 30 hours later, they chiseled through about 10 heaped cement slabs, and opened a tunnel of nearly 10 meters long.

Ma suffered lacerations to his abdomen but was conscious when being pulled out. At 2:56 PM, doctors took him to a hospital in Chongqing for further treatment.

Doctors with the Xinqiao Hospital in Chongqing said Ma was in a stable condition and a stable mood. He asked for water during the trip to Chongqing. He is staying in an intensive care unit in the hospital.

Ma, who is a power generation department deputy director of the Yingxiu Bay Hydro-Power Plant, is the only survivor saved so far on Tuesday.

On Monday, rescuers saved four people alive from rubble, although one of them later died. Sichuan's Party chief Liu Qibao said on Monday about 9,500 people remained under debris of leveled buildings. Experts warn that the chances of survival decrease greatly after three days.

A Chinese author Qian Gang, who spent ten years interviewing survivors of the Tangshan earthquake, said it was possible that people could live after being buried for more than eight days if they had the will to survive. He cited the case of an elderly woman who drank her own urine to sustain her for 13 days until rescuers pulled her out of the debris.

Although chances for survival are getting remote, rescuers and people whose family members are missing are still clinging to fading hopes.

In Beichuan Middle School, a woman sobbed in a hoarse voice that "I have an intuition that my brother is still alive."

Amid continuous aftershocks, rescue operations are proceeding, and dead bodies are promptly disposed of to prevent epidemic.

The Chinese health, police and civil affairs authorities said police and medical workers will keep record of the unidentified bodies and collect body tissues for DNA tests. The police will manage the DNA database for future identification.

Rescuers disinfected and took photos of the bodies before burying them. A brigadier from the Jinan Military Area Command said the photos will be collected and sent to local civil affairs office for reference.

"We took 30 cameras with us when we came for the rescue," said Tang Yanfeng, a brigadier leading rescue work in the Pengzhou City, one of the worst-hit areas in the earthquake.

"Some people may never have a chance to see the bodies of their families, and we hope it'll be a comfort to those if they could see their last photos," he added.

The earthquake death toll was 34,074 as of midday Tuesday, according to the earthquake relief headquarters of the State Council, China's Cabinet. About 245,963 people were injured and 32,361 were missing.

Starting from Monday, hundreds of the seriously injured have been taken to Chongqing by train for treatment. Doctors and volunteers are providing counseling to those who lost their loved ones.

(Xinhua News Agency May 20, 2008)

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