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Hundreds of Quake Victims Cremated in China

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Hundreds of victims were cremated Saturday in a Tibetan-populated area in northwest China's Qinghai Province after a devastating earthquake that has left 1,144 dead and 417 missing.

Up to 1,000 Buddhist monks chanted prayers at a traditional funeral ceremony in Gyegu Town in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yushu in southern Qinghai.

The 7.1-magnitude quake, which struck Yushu early Wednesday, has also left 11,744 people injured, including 1,192 serious cases, Xia Xueping, spokesman with the emergency rescue headquarters, told a press briefing late Friday.

Authorities have pledged to respect local funeral custom while disposing of bodies and preventing epidemic in the quake zone.

Meanwhile, local authorities have decided to dispose of bodies "timely and properly" amid efforts to prevent a possible outbreak of diseases in the quake zone, as the death toll is expected to rise further.

"In disposing of the bodies, we must respect the deceased, respect the funeral custom of the ethnic minorities and comfort their relatives in a proper manner," the Qinghai Provincial Civil Affairs Department said in a circular issued Thursday.

Thousands of rescuers are still struggling Saturday to search in the debris of collapsed buildings, hoping to find more survivors.

(Xinhua News Agency April 17, 2010)

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