China quake toll nears 56,000May 23rd, 2008 - 12:42 pm ICT by admin
Beijing, May 23 (DPA) The official death toll in last week’s earthquake in southwestern China’s Sichuan province neared 56,000 Friday, with more than 29,000 still missing, the government said, as evacuations were ordered out of fear natural dams will burst. As of late Thursday evening, 55,239 deaths had been registered in the aftermath of May 12 earthquake in Sichuan and 577 in neighbouring regions, said Li Chengyun, vice governor of Sichuan Friday in Beijing.
The Sichuan provincial government said it had rescued nearly 84,000 people from the rubble and that the magnitude-8 quake also injured 281,066, while 24,949 are still missing.
Asked what defines a “missing” person, a spokesman for disaster relief in Beijing said: “It can mean that we can’t find the corpse or the person”.
Premier Wen Jiabao, making his second visit to the disaster zone, Friday visited Beichuan county, one of the worst-hit areas, where people in Tangjiashan were being evacuated from below a natural dam, formed by a landslide into a river, out of fear the dam will burst and unleash a wall of water on the valley below.
Blocked rivers have created more than 33 unstable “quake lakes” where there was once dry land. Wen, a trained geologist, Friday ordered rescue workers to eliminate the danger of the lakes “through engineering means”.
Water official Zhu Bing Friday tried to assure that the quake lakes will not be “major risks in near future”.
There are more than 200,000 volunteer workers in the disaster area, reported vice-governor Li.
“We need tents and makeshift houses,” said Li Friday, adding that more than five million of the quake affected people need proper shelter.
Reconstruction after the earthquake will take three years, said the provincial official.
As of Thursday, domestic and overseas donations for quake victims had reached 21.4 billion yuan ($3 billion) and 1.9 billion yuan ($275 million) had already been sent to quake-hit areas.
The government relief fund for the quake had reached 14 billion yuan ($2 billion).
More than 7,000 aftershocks have hit Sichuan in the 11 days since the quake, with the strongest measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale.