China quake death toll soars past 50,000
Government officials reported on Thursday
The death toll from the devastating earthquake in southwestern China has leaped to 51,151 -- an increase of almost 10,000 -- government officials reported on Thursday, according to CNN.
The 7.9-magnitude quake injured 288,431 people, with another 29,328 missing, authorities said.
As of midday Thursday, domestic and international donations to China`s earthquake zone had reached $3 billion, or 21.4 billion yuan, according to State Council officials.
So far, 1.9 billion yuan has been forwarded to the earthquake-affected areas, the office said.
In the midst of the devastation caused by last week`s quake, China`s central government has announced it will allocate $10 billion (70 billion yuan) to the country`s reconstruction fund, according to state media.
To free up the funding, Premier Wen Jiabao said government spending will be cut by five percent this year, China`s Xinhua news agency reported.
Beijing will also allocate $3.6 billion (25 billion yuan) for rescue and relief efforts in quake-hit regions.
China`s Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development called on local authorities to build a million temporary homes by early August to accommodate many of the five million Chinese left homeless by the earthquake, according to Xinhua.
It also suggested that local authorities build one elementary school, one clinic and one retail store for every 1,000 temporary homes, and one middle school for every 2,000.
China`s response has been praised by a top United Nations official, who said the government`s willingness to seek international help highlighted the magnitude of the crisis.
"What is exceptional is, since 1998 this is the first time the Chinese government has opened up an issue like this to the international community and that basically shows that it`s a huge, huge crisis," Khalid Malik of the U.N. development program told ITN.
"It`s not a crisis that could have been easily and automatically managed." Watch footage of earthquake aftershocks in Gu`ergou. »
Earthquake relief efforts have prompted Chinese officials to postpone the next-to-the-last leg of the Olympic torch relay to Beijing, organizers said.
The two-day relay through Sichuan province, still reeling from the May 12 quake, will start August 3 -- less than a week before the torch enters the opening ceremony in Beijing, according to a statement from the city`s Olympic organizing committee.
The relay had been scheduled for June 15.
Thursday ended an official three-day mourning period, which had temporarily halted the torch relay. The relay resumed Thursday in the seaport city of Ningbo, in coastal Zhejiang province.
ITN`s John Sparks reported from China that the mourning period had appeared to unofficially mark the end of the search and rescue phase of the operations.
Medical staff are now seeking to identify the bodies being found and reduce the risk of disease spreading from the rotting corpses, he said.
Doctors have so far found 58 cases of gas gangrene, a bacterial infection that produces gas within infected flesh, the Xinhua news agency reported Wednesday. It said the cases did not represent an epidemic.
However, officials were heartened by instances such as Wednesday`s rescue of a 102-year-old woman, who was taken from rubble in Chengdu with just a few broken bones. Watch the old woman being taken to hospital. »
That followed the rescue of a woman who had been trapped for nine days in a tunnel at the Jinhe Hydropower Plant in Sichuan`s Hongbai town. She was taken by helicopter to a hospital to treat multiple fractures in her right arm, ribs and lower back.
A 60-year-old was also found who had survived for 195 hours, surviving on rain water.
However, massive problems remain trying to cope with the homeless, many of whom are concentrated in Sichuan`s mountainous regions.
CNN`s Hugh Riminton visited a refugee camp taking care of 8,000 people from mountain towns. He said the camp had no showers, but it did have food for the survivors.
"Politicians are grappling with big questions: whether to abandon forever the worst-hit mountain cities; how to find schools for the children, jobs for the parents, shelter for millions," Riminton reported.
He talked to one man who was leaving his nine-year-old son at the camp to look for his parents, who were still up in mountains as they could not make the trip down. Watch the report from the refugee camp. »
Another refugee, 64-year-old Wu Shaoqing, said her husband had made it out only because Chinese soldiers carried him across the mountains. His head and legs were hit by rubble, and he has not been able to stand up "in days."
They had their family before China`s one-child policy came into force, Riminton said, and that has given them more to mourn.
"My two daughters died, my younger daughter`s husband died, our two grandchildren died," Wu said. "My family lost five people, we lost our house -- we don`t even have clothes. We took only my sick husband -- we have nothing.
"Why has such a tragedy hit my family? I can`t bear to think about it anymore."