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China's Premier Says Quake is Country's Worst Since 1949


Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao says Monday's earthquake was the country's most destructive since 1949, as officials say more than 50,000 people are feared dead in Sichuan province alone.

Early Friday Chinese state-run media quoted Mr. Wen saying the quake was even more powerful than one in 1976 that killed 242.000.

Soldiers and civilian volunteers Thursday continued to pull survivors from collapsed buildings, where an estimated 30,000 people are buried beneath the debris.

As the number of confirmed deaths in Sichuan and nearby provinces approaches 20,000, Chinese state-run media Friday say officials worry that rotting corpses could spark disease outbreaks.

The first foreign rescue team arrived early Friday in Sichuan's provincial capital, Chengdu, from Japan. China also agreed today to accept teams from Russia, Singapore and South Korea.

Planes carrying aid and volunteers landed in China on Thursday from Taiwan, which China considers to be a renegade province.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Thursday issued an emergency appeal for medical help, food, water and tents. World Bank President Robert Zoellick said the institution was ready to help the Chinese government with recovery and reconstruction.

The Chinese government has sent some 130,000 troops to Sichuan and deployed 101 more helicopters to airlift victims and drop emergency supplies to quake survivors.

The state-run Xinhua news agency says the government has imposed temporary controls on food prices and transportation fares in the quake-hit region to stem hoarding and speculation.

Xinhua says 44 counties and districts in Sichuan were severely hit, affecting some 10 million people across the province. More than 65,000 people were physically injured during the earthquake, which also killed hundreds in nearby provinces.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.

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