Death toll tops 60,000, with over 20,000 still missing
Sun, May 25, 2008
The Straits Times
Chengdu (China) - The death toll from China's earthquake has topped 60,000, and may surpass 80,000, Premier Wen Jiabao said yesterday during talks with UN chief Ban Ki Moon at a devastated town in Sichuan province.

Mr Wen said at least that 60,000 people had died in the May12 quake, a sharp increase from the 55,000 confirmed a day before.

Fatalities 'may further climb to a level of 70,000, 80,000 or more', Mr Wen told reporters.

The national disaster headquarters, at a press conference later in Beijing, put the exact number of earthquake dead at 60,560. Another 26,221 were missing, it said.

Mr Ban, who arrived earlier yesterday at Yingxiu town in Wenchuan county - the epicentre of the quake - pledged the full support of the United Nations in China's relief and rebuilding process.

Mr Ban also repeatedly paid tribute to the leadership of Mr Wen and the response of his government.

'The Chinese government, at the early stage of this natural disaster, has invested strenuous effort and demonstrated extraordinary leadership,' he told journalists.

Several UN agencies have been shipping material and relief workers into the quake zone to aid China in resettling the 5.47million homeless, and ensuring that they have food and medical supplies.

The UN has further earmarked US$8million (S$10million) in relief supplies to China from its Central Emergency Response Fund.

Mr Wen yesterday thanked the international community for its help, and pledged openness in his government.

Meanwhile, the Beijing News reported that nearly 12per cent of those killed in the quake were students and teachers, crushed when their schools collapsed on top of them.

At least 6,581 of the total death toll were students and teachers, the paper said, citing Mr Tu Wentao, head of Sichuan's provincial education office.

The quake damaged 13,451 schools, Mr Tu said. In addition to those killed, schools registered 8,810 injured and 1,274 people still missing across the province by late Wednesday.

AFP, Reuters, Xinhua


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