The government is reporting that 40,000 people are dead, missing, or still buried under rubble as a result of the earthquake that struck central China last week:
Rescue teams who punched into the quake's stricken epicentre reported whole towns all but wiped off the map, spurring frantic efforts to bring emergency relief to the survivors.
Planes and military helicopters air-dropped supplies, 100 troops parachuted into a county that had been cut off, and rescuers in cities and towns across Sichuan province fought to pull the living and the dead from the debris.
But the overwhelming message that came back from this southwestern province was that only now is a picture slowly beginning to form of the epic scale of Monday's 7.9-magnitude quake.
State media quoted Sichuan vice governor Li Chengyun saying that based on "incomplete" figures, 14,463 people were confirmed dead in the province as of mid-afternoon Wednesday.
Nearly 26,000 were buried in rubble, he added, while Xinhua corrected its earlier report of more than 14,000 missing to just 1,400 -- although even that does not take into account new details emerging almost by the hour.
Far beyond the numbers is the human tragedy behind China's worst quake in a generation.
The terrible scope of this tragedy gets worse by the day. According to AP, troops reached the epicenter of the quake just today - testament to the damage done to infrastructure like roads and bridges. It will be weeks before all the bodies are collected and the damage assessed.
The US has offered aid and personnel to which the Chinese have politely declined - for now. They may change their minds after they get an idea of the massive nature of the relief effort. Millions are without fresh water or food while the dead bodies breed disease that can run through a population and kill more victims.