China paused for three minutes on Sunday as the nation mourned the deaths and misery of thousands of people in devastating mudslides that swept the northwestern region, with the national flag flown at half-mast in the country and at diplomatic missions abroad.
The toll rose to 1,248, and 496 are missing, On Sunday in Zhouqu county in Gansu province, hit by sludge and mudslides, the disaster relief headquarters said.
Thousands of people joined the mourning at 10.00 am amid sirens and blaring horns in Beijing and other cities, reports Xinhua.
About 5,000 workers in the county's Dongjie village bowed their heads atop debris of mudslide to pay their last respects.
A huge black banner, with letters "Mourning in deep grief for deceased compatriots of the Zhouqu massive mudslide", hung in front of the mourners and wreaths lay on the ground.
"I only feel sad as I stand on the debris of our homes," said a villager.
"Although my husband, my son and I survived, I lost more than 30 relatives in the mudslide," she said of the Aug 8 disaster.
In Dongjie, two thirds of the families were buried when the mudslide struck. And 368 of the 848 villagers died.
Troops on Sunday continued their search for bodies and health workers sprayed disinfectants in the area to prevent a possible outbreak of disease.
Some survivors sat silently on the debris, still holding out hope that the bodies of relatives could be found.
In tents, some bowed their heads, some knelt and some put their palms together to pray for the dead.
"May the deceased rest in peace. We the people who are still alive must be strong and continue our lives," said Han Ying, who lost all her family members in the disaster.
The Zhouqu county sits on the steep Bailong river valley and is hemmed in by rocky mountains on both sides.
At Heiyu and Labrang Buddhist monasteries, monks and believers attended a ritual to mourn the dead.
In Lanzhou, the provincial capital, about 10,000 people gathered at a city square to pay their last respects.
The national flag across the country and at embassies and consulates abroad flew at half-mast. All public entertainment activities, including games and music, were suspended and home pages of Chinese websites were turned black and white.
In central Beijing, thousands gathered at the Tian'anmen Square on Sunday to watch the national flag hoisted to full height and then lowered to half-mast, shouting "Go Zhouqu! Go China!"
At the Shanghai World Expo Park, all performances were cancelled and background music was turned off. The Gansu Pavilion will not hold any entertainment activities until September, its spokesman Wang Shigang told Xinhua.
In Yaque village of northeastern Jilin province, thousands mourned the deaths in Zhouqu, although they themselves reeled under floods and power supplies had been cut for days.
"There were no cheers when the power resumed. We paused to remember those dead in Zhouqu," said village head Yang Hongming.
Zhouqu is braced for more rain in coming days, and thousands of troops are still using large excavators to remove silt and debris that block the county roads.
But life is gradually recovering as the relief operation continues. The county education department said on Saturday that primary and middle schools in Zhouqu will start the autumn semester Aug 25, 10 days later than scheduled.
This was because hundreds of homes and one primary school were buried and more schools were damaged or inundated in water. Many classrooms are being used as temporary shelters.
By Saturday noon, power supplies had resumed in 8,375 homes in Zhouqu. Vegetables were on sale Saturday for the first time since the disaster. Local authorities ordered 8,400 kg of vegetables from neighbouring Longnan city.
But new floods and landslides triggered by rains over the past week have brought misery to Longnan and neighbouring Sichuan province.
China suffered worst floods in at least a decade this summer. Floods and other rain-triggered disasters have left more than 2,300 people dead and 1,200 missing nationwide this year.