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China Quake Death Toll Passes 60,000


Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao says the death toll from last week's earthquake in southwestern China has passed 60,000 and could rise above 80,000

Wen announced the new figures in a meeting Saturday with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in the city of Yingxiu in Sichuan province, about 60 kilometers from the epicenter of the quake.

Mr. Ban is touring areas in Sichuan affected by the May 12th quake.

Previously, Chinese officials said the quake had killed more than 55,000 people and left nearly 25,000 others missing.

Chinese media reported Friday that the United Nations has increased to eight million dollars its pledged emergency relief funds for earthquake victims.

Local officials estimate it could take up to three years to rebuild areas of Sichuan devastated by the quake,

The quake also destroyed millions of buildings and left more than five million people homeless. An official in one of the worst-hit areas, Qingchuan county, said 30,000 residents will be relocated permanently because the area is uninhabitable.

Chinese emergency crews are also working to secure 15 sources of radiation buried in wreckage from the quake. But China's vice environment minister Wu Xiaoqing said Friday that there have been no accidental releases of radiation.

Chinese officials have appealed to the international community for more than three million tents for survivors.

Officials also warn that landslides from aftershocks and the onset of the rainy season are complicating recovery efforts from the 7.9 magnitude quake. Officials say the tremors created at least 33 lakes when landslides blocked rivers.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP

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