LUDIAN, Yunnan, Aug. 9 (Xinhua) -- Survivors in southwest China's Yunnan Province, with the help of soldiers and rescuers, were fighting against potential secondary disasters Saturday as they mourned their loved ones killed in the 6.5-magnitude earthquake.
Saturday is the seventh day following the devastating quake that has left 617 people dead and 112 missing. According to Chinese tradition, the seventh day after a death marks the height of the mourning period.
In front of her daughter's tomb, Tang Qiping burned some paper money and buried into the ground a laptop computer. "We hope you can continue your study in heaven," she wept.
The laptop, which was newly bought by her daughter Feng Fang with her scholarship, was crushed together with Feng herself in the house when the quake jolted Longquan Village of Ludian County, the epicenter.
"I should be blamed for her death," Tang said, tears in eyes.
Feng, a sophomore of maths major at a university in the city of Chuxiong, had planned to find a part-time job during her summer vacation in Chuxiong. But the mother said she persuaded her to come back home.
Tang recalled that her daughter had been helping with harvesting the pepper after she returned. She was having a rest in her room when the quake happened. Almost all the clay houses in the village collapsed, including Tang's.
It took two hours for Tang's younger brother, who narrowly escaped his death as he just stepped out of the house, to dig her body out with the help of neighbors.
Also Saturday, at the Yuantong Temple located in the provincial capital of Kunming, around 1,500 Buddhist followers attended a religious gathering, mourning the dead and praying for the survivors of the quake.
People in Yunnan will observe three minutes of silence at 10 a.m. Sunday.
BARRIER LAKE STILL A THREAT
The arrival of specialist heavy machinery has allowed workers to begin racing at full speed to drain the quake-formed barrier lake which is still threatening local residents with flooding.
The machinery has made a huge difference to work to dig a deep canal through a wall of the lake and cause the water level to subside, said Chen Jian, director of the provincial water resources bureau, who is overseeing the excavation work at the site, Saturday.
The barrier lake is located near the border of Ludian and Qiaojia counties, where most of the deaths occurred. It was formed when 12 million cubic meters of landslide rubble blocked the Niulan River, and has already flooded more than 370 homes.
Chen said the speed of the lake's swelling has slowed down, after workers used dynamite to expand a drainage tunnel belonging to a hydropower station located 600 meters upstream from the barrier lake. The drainage tunnel is diverting part of the river's flow away from the lake.
On Saturday morning, the water level in the lake was increasing by a few centimeters per hour, as compared with 60-80 centimeters per hour in the past few days.
Chen said the river's flow in the past few days has also become more stable as there have been no heavy downpours in the region.
In the past seven days of search and rescue work, it had been difficult to transport large machinery to the site. Rescuers helped evacuate more than 8,100 local residents away from the river's reaches.
Chen said the blockages are mostly big rocks. Explosions have been set to blow them up, while heavy machinery is important for excavation.
A headquarters dedicated to the quake lake is eyeing opening the eight meter-deep canal through the blockage before Tuesday.
According to the provincial weather station, heavy rains are expected to pound the quake-hit area in the next three days, and geological disasters in upper reaches of the barrier lake are highly possible.
Yang Suyu, chief weatherman of the station, said downpours may further lift the water levels of the barrier lake and cause landslides and other secondary disasters in the lake area, hampering the draining efforts.