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China girl's legs amputated to free her from rubble

HANWANG, China (Reuters) - Chinese doctors amputated a teenage girl’s crushed legs on Thursday, the only way they could pull her alive from the wreckage of her school three days after an earthquake flattened swathes of the country’s southwest.

Rescuers carry high-school student Yang Liu (C) from the rubble after doctors amputated her legs to free her at a collapsed school in the township of Hanwang, in Mianzhu city north of Chengdu, Sichuan Province May 15, 2008. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Yang Liu was trapped in what appeared to be a doorway by Monday’s massive 7.9 magnitude quake, near the top of a massive pile of bricks and concrete.

Her position likely saved her life.

Moments after the hasty, on-site surgery took place, doctors carried her down the hill of rubble, before speeding off in a waiting ambulance to hospital in the nearby city of Deyang.

“We saved her,” said one of the doctors involved, walking away from the site still wearing a face mask and with a stethoscope around his neck. “Her condition is still quite precarious.”

On Wednesday, rescuers had led a photojournalist to the school to take pictures of Yang for surgeons to study in preparation.

As doctors did their work, cranes clearing the site halted and the crowd at the school ground, many of them relatives of the victim, fell silent.

Another doctor, surnamed Wang, said the whole operation took less than 20 minutes.

“It didn’t take long at all, they just needed to cut through the bones,” he said.

Rescuers then returned to the grim task of sifting through the rubble, pulling several contorted bodies from the remains of the school just moments after doctors had finished their work.