To head off any suspicion that China wasn't making a massive relief effort, the prime minister was shown on Chinese television amid the quake's debris directing rescue efforts with a bullhorn in hand.
"Hang on, the army is here to rescue you," he said to those trapped under buildings.
When the ground started shaking beneath their feet, teachers at the Wenhua Township Primary School in Chongqing first told the kids to wait where they were, but eventually told them to run. As they did, the school collapsed.
Those who survived were treated in the open outside the city's hospital. Doctors feared that the hospital could collapse from another aftershock.
"My daughter lost her right arm," one woman told ABC News.
"I feel," she said, "like the sky has fallen on me."
Linda Owens contributed to this report