May 21, 2008
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China comes to standstill to mourn quake tragedy
-------------- Article from: Agence France-Presse
CHINA came to a standstill today, exactly one week after its earthquake tragedy, observing three minutes of silence to mourn the tens of thousands of people killed in the disaster.
Across the country, millions of people stopped where they were and fell silent, while air-raid sirens blared and motorists honked their horns.
The silent memorial began precisely at 2.28pm (1628 AEST), the exact moment a week earlier when the quake struck south-western China.
Several thousand people gathered in Tiananmen Square in central Beijing, standing silently around a flagpole from which the red Chinese flag waved at half-mast.
They burst into chants when the three minutes passed.
In unison, the huge crowd shouted "Jia you! Jia you!," an exhortation that can be loosely translated as "Go! Go!", while punching the air with their fists.
Others shouted out "Long live China!," "Long live Sichuan!," and "Long live Wenchuan!"
Wenchuan county was the epicentre of last Monday's earthquake, which measured 8.0 on the Richter scale and devastated a wide area of Sichuan province, killing an estimated 50,000 people.
China started a three-day national mourning period today, ordering all flags at half-mast throughout the country and at Chinese embassies and missions overseas.
It halted all cultural and entertainment activities.
The Beijing Olympic torch relay that had been making its way through China also has been halted for three days.
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