| GEO World|
| Hundreds of China quake victims cremated|
| Updated at: 0730 PST, Saturday, April 17, 2010|
JIEGU: Buddhist monks on Saturday cremated hundreds of victims of China's earthquake on a huge funeral pyre near the epicentre of the disaster on a remote corner of the Tibetan plateau.
Bodies were trucked to the site in northwestern Qinghai province, where the Tibetan Buddhist monks lowered the naked, bloodied, and bruised corpses of men, women, and children into a wood-lined, 150-metre-wide (500-foot) trench.
Amid the somber chanting of hundreds of other monks surrounding the pit and lining nearby hills outside the quake zone's main town of Jiegu, the bodies were doused with gasoline and set ablaze after being blessed by priests.
Huge flames leapt from the massive pile as thick black smoke towered skyward.
"The cremation will allow us to release their spirits so they can go up to heaven," said a Tibetan woman who gave her name as Fale and who is associated with the Jiegu Buddhist monastery overlooking the town.
The Beijing News quoted local officials as saying a total of 740 corpses were to be cremated Saturday as attention turned to stemming possible disease outbreaks after the deadly disaster.
The death toll from Wednesday's 6.9-magnitude earthquake in Qinghai province has risen to 1,144, officials said, with more than 400 others missing.