And the human toll is also staggering. More than 292,000 injuries - putting an enormous strain on health care workers, CBS News' Celia Hatton reports.
It's nothing less than a miracle when someone living is pulled free from these mountains of silent concrete.
But when the rescuers have done their jobs, Dr. Zeng Jiancheng takes over. He hasn't stopped working since last week's quake.
He usually has 200 patients. Now, he's struggling with 800.
"Once I get onto the wards and see those faces, I get a boost of energy," he explained through a translator.
CBS News asked Dr. Zeng about his patients and he immediately wanted to introduce us to one young woman whom he says has inspired everyone around her.
He Chuan Tao was working in a chemical plant when the quake struck. She was thrown down a flight of stairs and trapped in the wreckage for 24 hours. It took another day for rescuers to free her.
"When I got to the hospital, I lost consciousness," she said through translation. "When I woke up, my legs were gone."
Dr. Zeng is amazed that one 22-year-old patient is smiling at all.
"I've had some bad luck but I was fortunate compared to others," the patient explains. "I can survive. I've got my second life."
Her second life will require prosthetic limbs and her biggest concern is finding them.
The daughter of rice farmers, she has little money and must wait in line with many amputees for whatever is available. This hospital alone houses 100 earthquake survivors who lost limbs.
Dr. Zeng's other patients are battling emotional scars. Luo Ling hasn't been able to sleep since she clawed her way out of a collapsed building.
"My six colleagues all died together," she remembers. "They sent a phone message calling for help, but none came in time. They were found, dead, all holding hands."
As China works to rebuild its broken cities, both the staff and the patients in this hospital understand the human side of this disaster will take much longer to heal.