Image: A couple builds a shelter on the ruins of their house at Luoshui, near Shifang, in China's southwest Sichuan province Thursday May 15, 2008.
LUOSHUI TOWN, China - warned the death toll from this week's earthquake could soar to 50,000, while the government issued a public appeal Thursday for rescue equipment as it struggled to cope with the disaster.
More than 72 hours after the quake rattled central China, rescuers appeared to shift from poring through downed buildings for survivors to the grim duty of searching for bodies — with 10 million directly affected by Monday's temblor.
In Luoshui town — on the road to an industrial zone in Shifang city where two chemical plants collapsed, burying hundreds of people — troops used a mechanical shovel to dig a pit on a hilltop to bury the dead.
Police and militia in Dujiangyan pulverized rubble with cranes and backhoes while crews used shovels to pick around larger pieces of debris. On one sidestreet, about a dozen bodies were laid on a sidewalk, while incense sticks placed in a pile of sand sent smoke into the air as a tribute and to dull the stench of death.