China says quake toll likely to cross 50,000

May 15th, 2008 - 9:15 pm ICT by admin  

Chengdu (China), May 15 (Xinhua) China Thursday said more than 50,000 people were feared dead in the devastating earthquake that struck south-west Sichuan province Monday, as the hope for rescuing more survivors from the rubble was becoming bleak. “The deaths are estimated to be over 50,000,” said Zhang Zhoushu, vice director of the state-run China Earthquake Disaster Prevention Centre.

“If there are some survivors under such conditions, it would be a matter of luck, or a miracle,” he said.

Howerver, Sichuan Vice Governor Li Chengyun said here in a press conference that the confirmed death toll in the province was 19,509 as of 4 p.m. Thursday.

The vice governor also said that the provincial government had handed over 670 million yuan ($95.7 million) for disaster relief efforts in quake-hit areas.

Premier Wen Jiabao ordered another 30,000 troops and 90 military helicopters to the area to bolster operations, while the military began its first major air drops of tens of thousands of food packets, clothes and blankets.

More than 100,000 Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers and armed police, 1,235 medical teams, local officials and volunteers were racing the clock for rescue and relief operations in the quake-hit areas.

In Beijing, Deputy Health Minister Gao Qiang told a press conference that no epidemics had been reported in the quke-hit regions.

Responding to a question from CCTV journalist concerning diseases in the disaster area, Gao said: “We will try to achieve the goal of ‘no big epidemic after a great disaster’.”

Gao said the goal was based on scientific evidence and plans. He said that China had been able to control epidemics after all the major natural disasters that had occurred since 1976, including the 7.8-magnitude quake in north China’s Tangshan city.

He said Chinese medical workers had acquired better knowledge of epidemic diseases and knew effective measures to prevent them.

“We have made careful plans for disease control and prevention in disaster areas and have sent a large group of medical workers to those areas to carry out the plans,” said Gao.

“However, whether we achieve the goal of ‘no big epidemic after a great disaster’ will depend on the real work we do in those areas,” he added.

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