Monks pray as mass cremation of Kyigudo quake victims begin

Dharamshala: Around 1,000 Tibetan Buddhist monks sitting on a hillside chant solemn prayers as mass cremation for the victims of the devastating earthquake that struck Kyigudo in north-eastern Tibet was conducted on Saturday. (click here for video)

In this undated photo hundreds of dead bodies are seen piled up at a makeshift morgue near a monastery after a powerful earthquake killed around 1,339 people in the Tibetan dominated Kyigudo in north-eastern Tibet
In this undated photo hundreds of dead bodies are seen piled up at a makeshift morgue near a monastery after a powerful earthquake killed around 1,339 people in the Tibetan dominated Kyigudo in north-eastern Tibet

Due to the sheer number of corpses, the local Tibetans were compelled to break with centuries-old tradition of chopping a body into pieces and leaving it on a platform to be devoured by vultures.

“This is very special as there are too many bodies from earthquake victims, and we can’t have sky burials for all of them at the same time,” a monk was quoted as saying by The Associated Press.

“There are not enough vultures for all these bodies, so the bodies will become very dirty and it is not good for the souls to rest in peace,” he said. “Therefore, we think the mass cremation is the best funeral for all these earthquake victims.”

Monks at the cremation were not able to give an exact number of bodies burned.

 Tibetan monks throw a body wrapped in cloth during a mass cremation for victims of Wednesday's earthquake in the Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (Tibetan:Kyigudo), Saturday, 17 April 2010. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Tibetan monks throw a body wrapped in cloth during a mass cremation for victims of Wednesday's earthquake in the Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (Tibetan:Kyigudo), Saturday, 17 April 2010. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

While the cremation took place, rescue workers were still searching through rubble in a bid to find any remaining survivors.

Though the Chinese government was reaching out, many residents turned instead to the monks and their traditions, rather than a central authority dominated by the majority Han Chinese.

Residents of the largely Tibetan town pointed out repeatedly that after the series of earthquakes Wednesday, the monks were the first to come to their aid — pulling people from the rubble and passing out their own limited supplies.

The death toll has now climbed to 1,339, with 322 missing, BBC reported quoting local Chinese government officials.

Exile Tibetans Offer Prayers and Solidarity

The Tibetan people in exile, led by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration, conducted special services to the victims of Kyigudo tragedy.

In his message issued Saturday, His Holiness the Dalai Lama expressed his eagerness to visit the earthquake affected area to comfort the victims.

His Holiness said the Tibetan community in exile would like to offer whatever support and assistance it can towards the relief work as soon as possible through proper and appropriate channels.

His Holiness also appealed to governments, international aid organisations and other agencies to extend whatever assistance they can to enable the families of those devastated by the earthquake to rebuild their lives.

Critical need for relief supplies

Tibetan monks help digging to search students believe to be trapped at a school collapsed after an earthquake in Kyigudo on Friday, 16 April 2010/AP
Tibetan monks help digging to search students believe to be trapped at a school collapsed after an earthquake in Kyigudo on Friday, 16 April 2010/AP

Food, tents and medical supplies are arriving too but rescue workers say there is a critical need for further supplies, BBC reported.

Thousands of people have been left homeless, with many having to sleep outdoors in freezing temperatures as the region lies at about 4,000m (13,000ft).

The Provincial Deputy Police Chief Liu Tianhui said during a press conference on Saturday that the biggest challenge was still getting enough clean drinking water and food for estimated 100,000 people affected by earthquake.

Ninety-seven per cent of the Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (Tibetan: Kyigudo) which was hit by the earthquake were ethnic Tibetans.