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Foreign rescue teams continue search for China's "miracle" quake survivors

    BEICHUAN, Sichuan, May 18 (Xinhua) -- The 60 members of the Japanese rescue team in southwest China had split in two on Sunday in the hope of finding earthquake survivors in Beichuan county, one of the area's worst hit by the May 12 tremor.

    A 20-plus group, with three sniffer dogs and life detection apparatus, were searching for lives in the remaining two-floors of a seven-story building of the county's planning and construction department.

    Li Chan, an official with the department, said tearfully that probably more than 20 of the 40 staff members were buried under the debris of the building.

    Right opposite the devastated building are the collapsed buildings of the new campus of Beichuan middle school.

    Another group working in Beichuan middle school had took seven bodies out of the debris on Sunday morning.

Members of the Japanese rescue team carry the body of a victim at Qiaozhuang Town of Qingchuan County in the quake-stricken southwest China's Sichuan Province, May 17, 2008. Japanese earthquake rescuers found two corpses in a collapsed six-floor building in Qiaozhuang at 7:25 am after 16 hours rescue operation.(Xinhua Photo)

    Around the same time, local fire fighters carried three bodies out of the collapsed school, where hundreds of students are still buried.

    The Japanese, after arriving at Beichuan late on Saturday, started life detection operations in Beichuan county town and the middle school despite rain. They are still searching for survivors at the two sites.

    Civilians not involved in relief work have been evacuated from Beichuan, which is still a dangerous place.

    Fire-fighters, medical workers and armed police are there working with Japanese rescuers. Medical workers are spreading disinfection liquid and pesticide in the town.

    The Japanese team, the first group of foreign rescue professionals to arrive in quake-stricken Sichuan Province, reached here by bus from Qingchuan, where they found bodies of a mother Song Aimei and her 70-day-old daughter in the debris of a building.

    In Qingchuan, the death toll was approaching 1,900.

    "Now, the chances of survival are very slim, but there are cases of people surviving this long before, so, we won't give up," said Takashi Koizumi, head of the Japanese team.

    Surviving residents had volunteered to give the rescuers supper in the evening, together with instant noodles and boiled water.

    "Please express our sincere gratitude to them for coming to help us from so far away," a young man, who only gave his surname Wei, told Xinhua reporters at the site.

    Most residents like Wei in the county seat became homeless after the quake and they stayed in tents or temporary shelters built with tarpaulins.

    Meanwhile, a team of rescue workers from the Republic of Korea (ROK) has vowed to keep scouring the rubble of southwest China's earthquake zone until all hope of survival "miracles" is lost.

    "Although the chances of survival for those trapped are slim, we are still searching for miracles," said team leader Kim Yong Suk on Sunday.

    Kim and his 40 rescue team members from the Republic of Korea were searching through the debris of a flattened chemical plant of Shifang city, Sichuan Province. They recovered two bodies on Saturday.

    They have been using life detection equipment in the twisted ruins of buildings, factories and schools since they began work on Saturday, but have so far failed to find any survivors.

    They flew into Sichuan on Friday, and Kim has yet to phone his family.

    "I am most concerned about the rescue work and safety of my team," said Kim, 55. "I have no time to think about other things."

    Two thirds of the crew had international rescue experience.

    "We rescuers are of the same family," Kim said. When he saw TV footage of Chinese professional rescuers at work, he wanted to join them immediately.

    Kim, with more than 33 years of rescue experience, said he was deeply moved by the great resources the Chinese government had dispatched in money, materials and personnel for disaster relief.

    "We have brought advanced equipment and experienced crew, together with anti-epidemic medicines," said Kim.

    As of 2 p.m. on Saturday, 28,881 people were confirmed dead nationwide in the massive earthquake and the death toll is estimated to exceed 50,000.

    More than 200 foreign rescuers from Japan, Russia, the Republic of Korea (ROK) and Singapore are in Sichuan to help with rescue and relief.

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