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Quake death toll officially hits 40,075
2008-05-21 00:00

      BEIJING, May 20 (Xinhua) -- The death toll from the devastating earthquake in southwest China's Sichuan Province rose to 40,075 nationwide as of 6 p.m. Tuesday, according to the Information Office of the State Council.

    Another 247,645 people were injured in the 8.0-magnitude quake that jolted southwestern Sichuan Province last Monday.

    At a press conference earlier Tuesday, the information office also said that 32,361 people were missing as of Tuesday noon.

    In Sichuan Province alone, 39,577 people have been confirmed dead and another 236,359 people injured as of 4 p.m. Tuesday.

    As of midday Tuesday, 159 aftershocks measuring above 4 on the Richter scale had been detected in Sichuan, according to the China Seismological Bureau. Aftershocks measured above magnitude 5 numbered 26, with four stronger than magnitude 6.

    About 5.36 million buildings have collapsed and more than 21 million were damaged in the earthquake, according to figures available as of Monday evening, said the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

    The quake affected 434 counties in 10 provinces and municipalities in China, the ministry said in a statement issued Tuesday.

    The worst-affected areas include central and northern Sichuan'sAba Prefecture, Mianyang, Deyang, Guangyuan, Ya'an and Chengdu, southeastern Gansu's Longnan, and Hanzhong and Baoji in southern and western Shaanxi Province.

    Among the 34 worst-hit counties, 21 are in Sichuan, eight in Shaanxi and five in Gansu.

    By Monday at midnight, up to 360,159 people trapped during the quake had been rescued and transported to safe areas, among whom 6,375 were excavated from rubble, according to the military source.

    Military rescuers had reached all 1,044 worst-hit villages under 134 townships in southwestern Sichuan Province as of Tuesday evening.

    A total of 278,462 tents, 783,984 quilts, 1.78 million pieces of cotton-padded clothes and 218 million yuan worth of food and drinking water had been allocated to the quake zones as of 1 p.m. Tuesday by the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

    The Civil Affairs ministry and the Finance Ministry are also planning to provide each homeless quake victim who lacks an income with a daily subsidy of 10 yuan and 500 grams of food for three months, starting from late May. Orphans, widowed elders with no children and handicapped persons who lost relatives will receive another monthly subsidy of 600 yuan for three months. A 5,000-yuancompensation fund for relatives of the quake dead in the quake is also guaranteed.

    As of Tuesday noon, domestic and international donations to the quake areas have reached close to 14 billion yuan, compared with 11.7 million yuan from central and local government budgets by 2 p.m. Tuesday.

    So far, the provincial power grids in quake-hit Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi as well as Chongqing Municipality have been in normal operation while the electricity supply to Gansu, Chongqing and Shaanxi has resumed normal levels.

    But, power supply was still cut off in the worst-hit Beichuan, Maoxian and Wolong counties, the information office said.

    Repairs on the Baoji-Chengdu Railway are also under way.

    Telecommunications lines between the outside world and the eight worst-hit counties in Sichuan (Wenchuan, Lixian, Maoxian, Qingchuan, Pingwu, Heishui, Beichuan and Mianzhu) were functional as of Tuesday noon. Of the 201 townships under the eight counties,146 had telecommunication access.

    Plans for reconstruction will be worked out after authorities finish moving survivors to safe areas.

    As of 2 p.m. Monday, 80 percent of the dead in Sichuan had been buried or cremated, while all bodies in other provinces reporting quake deaths have been properly handled to prevent possible plague in the quake zones.

    Authorities will collect pictures and body tissue samples of those who cannot be identified before burial or cremation, to build a DNA database for future identification.

    In the meantime, the State Council is calling for more tents to provide shelter for quake victims.

    "Tents, what we need the most are more tents," said Jiang Li, the vice minister of civil affairs, at the press conference on Tuesday afternoon, appealing for international help.

    Sufficient supplies of food, and drinking water was emphasized by the State Council, which also called for providing psychological assistance to quake victims and their relatives.


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