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China cordons off schools that collapsed in earthquake

Authorities cordoned off some schools that collapsed in last month's earthquake, keeping out grieving parents and reporters Wednesday in a sign that Beijing was becoming increasingly nervous over accusations of shoddy construction.

Parents whose children were crushed in their classrooms during the May 12 quake vowed to keep pushing the government for compensation, as well as for an explanation of why so many schools fell when other buildings remained standing.

The students' deaths have become a political challenge for the government, which is trying to provide for the 5 million people left homeless amid accusations of corruption in construction.

At Juyuan Middle School, where more than 270 students died, officers blocked parents from entering the school yard Wednesday. Dozens of people crowded behind police tape, some still waiting for children to be pulled from the rubble.

“There are still bodies in there!” people shouted.

Police refused to say why they sealed off the site: “We're just following orders from above,” one officer said.

Until this week, journalists were free to interview parents who held protests and erected homemade memorials at collapsed schools, with many angrily accusing the government of corruption.

But police ordered a half-dozen reporters to stop filming and conducting interviews at the Juyuan school Wednesday. The group was placed on a bus and sent away.

The quake killed more than 69,000 people, but Lu Guangjin, spokesman for the State Council, or China's Cabinet, said there was no count of how many were children.

The government has said about 7,000 school buildings were destroyed, and parents and even rescuers have pointed to steel rods in broken concrete slabs that were thinner than a ball point pen.

Authorities promised to investigate the school collapses. Lu said officials were analyzing samples of the rubble but the work would take time.