BEICHUAN, China (AP) Heavy equipment began toppling the few buildings left standing in this quake-stricken town once home to 30,000 people, and workers in white protective suits sprayed disinfectant Thursday in the silent streets amid roaming dogs and chickens.
Ten days after China's worst disaster in a generation, it appears the search for survivors and even the dead was giving way to the first steps toward reconstruction.
The smell of bleach in Beichuan was overpowering as workers in the white suits and black rubber boots sprayed disinfectant on buildings, trees, car wheels and the soles of shoes of people leaving the town, where thousands are still likely buried. A layer of lime used as a disinfectant to sprinkle on bodies covered roads and any surface where corpses were yet to be recovered.
"There are no more signs of life," said 24-year-old soldier Li Zichuan. He watched excavators demolishing what is left of the Beichuan Middle School, where residents say hundreds of students and teachers were killed.
"During the recovery operation, we dug many bodies up here, so now all that is left is to disinfect the place and then demolish it."
The bottom two floors of the five-story school collapsed in the quake, leaving a squat, leaning wreck.
Rescuing trapped survivors was the first priority of the massive military-led response to the May 12 quake, and teams have pulled 33,434 people from the rubble alive, officials say.
Now, those efforts have come to a virtual standstill. No rescues have been reported since Wednesday.
The government said the toll of dead and missing jumped to more than 80,000. The confirmed death toll rose to 51,151, up almost 10,000 from the day before.