Reports from China say the Olympic torch relay likely will be rerouted when it reaches Sichuan province, to avoid passing through the cities most heavily damaged in the recent earthquake.

Chinese television quotes Zhu Ling, an Olympic committee official in Sichuan, as saying Saturday that the traditional relay of runners carrying a torch with the Olympic flame is expected to bypass the cities of Mianyang, Guanghan and Dujiangyan. Those areas are near the center of the disaster zone in southwestern China.

The Olympic flame is currently due in Sichuan in about nine weeks, just before the Beijing Games begin on August 8th.

The torch relay in Sichuan originally was scheduled for mid-June, but it was postponed shortly after the earthquake. The runners currently carrying the flame through other parts of China also stopped for the three days of official mourning for those lost in the earthquake.

The current casualty toll from the May 12th quake stands at nearly 69 thousand dead and well over 350 thousand injured. Another 18 thousand people who have not been seen since the earthquake are listed as missing.

Some information for this report provided by AFP.