BEIJING — Some 9,000 school children and teachers are among the dead, buried or missing in China’s major earthquake, state press said Saturday. The students account for about 12 percent of the overall number of victims, which stood Friday at more than 80,000 dead or missing.
According to the Sichuan province education department, 6,581 school children and teachers were killed in the massive quake and 1,274 were missing as of noon on Wednesday, the Beijing News reported.
Another 1,107 students and teachers are known to be buried under the rubble and will not be classified as dead until their bodies are recovered, according to the newspaper. Many people in China horrified by the devastation of the quake became angry after learning that thousands of schools collapsed, even though some neighboring structures remained standing.
Some of the most horrifying scenes from the disaster zone were at kindergartens and elementary schools flattened by the quake which measured 8.0 on the Richter scale.
Many stories of teachers losing their lives as they attempted to save children have been reported.
Amid the outrage, the government has vowed to investigate and punish anyone responsible for substandard construction standards at schools.
“We will investigate the construction quality of the schools and if we find that there are problems, we will severely deal with them,” the paper quoted Han Jin, a top official with China’s Education Ministry, as saying.
More than 12,300 schools in Sichuan were damaged, making up nearly 41 percent of all schools in the province, one of China’s most populous, the paper said.
According to the local education department, another 8,810 schoolchildren and teachers were injured in the quake.
The earthquake, China’s deadliest in three decades, has also left more than 5.4 million people homeless.