China quake toll goes past 62,000 (Roundup)

May 25th, 2008 - 9:43 pm ICT by admin  

Mianyang (China), May 25 (Xinhua) China Sunday said over 62,000 people were killed in the May 12 earthquake in the southwestern province of Siachun as the government stepped up measures to prevent landslides and floods in the quake hit areas. More than 350,000 were injured in the quake and some 24,000 people were still missing. A total of 638,305 people had been rescued and resettled to safer places by the military and civilian rescuers, said Guo Weimin, director of the information office.

Meanwhile, another aftershock measuring 6.4 on the Richter scale jolted the province Sunday afternoon, the strongest since the May 12 devastating earthquake, killing at least one person and injuring 25.

The aftershock was the strongest of the 8,000 tremors that rocked Sichuan province in the aftermath of the May 12 quake.

Around 1,800 armed policemen and soldiers of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) were trekking mountainous terrain to clear a blocked lake in Sichuan’s Bechuan county that could burst any moment causing massive floods and impeding relief and rescue work, an official said.

“The soldiers are carrying 10 kg of dynamite each and are expected to arrive at the site (Tangjiashan lake in Sichuan’s Beichuan county) Sunday night,” a PLA spokesman told Xinhua.

The soldiers have to reach a mountain top before they could start the work.

“We’ve found a local guide in Beichuan County who is willing to take us there,” said Gong Juncang, a PLA officer. “We tried once before, but couldn’t make it to the top after 12 hours.”

Authorities said there are more than 30 such lakes in the region that are in danger of bursting.

Earlier attempts by the PLA and armed police to send military helicopters for the same mission failed due to adverse weather and low visibility near the lake.

The local meteorological bureau has forecast strong winds and thunderstorms in the area Sunday and Monday.

Chinese premier Wen Jiabao told Chinese and foreign reporters at a resettlement site in Yingxiu town, one of the worst-hit areas in the May 12 quake, that while rescue and relief operations would continue, the focus would now be on post-quake reconstruction.

The biggest problem was arranging shelter for stricken people, said Wen, who was paying a second visit to quake-hit Sichuan province, adding that some 15 million rooms had been destroyed in the earthquake.

The government has ordered tent manufacturers to produce and transport 30,000 tents to the quake zone each day and 900,000 within a month, Wen said.

The production of movable plank houses should also be accelerated to ensure the quake-affected people resume normal activities within three months, Wen added.

The government was taking measures to ensure that no epidemic broke out in the backlash of the quake, he said, adding that adequate epidemic prevention staff and medicine supply were being ensured.

Wen said another problem confronting the quake-relief workers was prevention of secondary disasters the possibilities of which still existed. Quake-formed lakes are the most serious among them, he said.

“We will take effective measures to eradicate safety hazards to ensure zero casualty in possible secondary disasters,” Wen said.

Wen Sunday expressed his government’s appreciation to visiting UN chief Ban Ki-moon for the organisation’s help following the earthquake and said the nation was confident of overcoming the disaster.

“On behalf of the Chinese people, I thank you for coming to the quake zone and extending your sympathy to the victims,” Wen told the UN secretary-general.

“Our meeting is extraordinary here in Wenchuan County,” the premier said.

The UN chief arrived in Chengdu, capital of quake-hit Sichuan province, Saturday and rushed to Yingxiu town in Wenchuan.

While briefing Ban on China’s earthquake relief work, Wen said the country appreciates the efforts of the international community to offer rescuers, funds and materials to the quake zone.

“All these moves, including the UN emergency relief efforts, showcase all people’s friendly feelings for China and their lofty humanitarian spirits,” Wen said.

Rescuers from all parts of the country have arrived in quake-hit areas as soon as possible and quickly started rescue and relief work, finding and saving more than 60,000 people within a few days.

Ban said his heart and sympathy went out to the Chinese people. Ban also complimented the Chinese government on the manner it handled the relief and rescue efforts.

At a press conference, Wen urged reporters to record the truth so that the dead can be remembered and the survivors can be consoled.

“Let people remember the devastating earthquake, remember the lost lives, and remember the brave fight of the people in the quake-hit regions and across the nation against the disaster,” the Chinese premier said during a press conference.

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