Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Expected Dead Now Numbered at over 70,000

China says over 70,000 dead or missing from quake

By Lucy Hornby

CHENGDU, China (Reuters) - China raised the number of dead or missing from a devastating earthquake to more than 70,000 on Tuesday, as rescuers found another survivor eight days after the huge tremor hit.

A government statement said the number killed had now topped 40,000, and state news agency Xinhua reported that a further 32,000 were missing.

Authorities had previously said they expected the final death toll to exceed 50,000. More than 247,000 were injured.

In Wenchuan county, epicenter of the May 12 quake in mountainous Sichuan province, rescuers found a man alive after 179 hours buried in the rubble, state media said.

Ma Yuanjiang, 31, a power plant executive, spoke after he was rescued, but his body was "as fragile as that of a newborn baby", Chongqing Xinqiao hospital president Wang Weidong said.

"The next 12 hours are crucial for Ma's survival. The patient finished the first half of a life miracle, now we are trying to do the second," Xinhua quoted Wang as saying.

His rescue came as authorities tried to restore calm in the provincial capital, Chengdu, after tens of thousands rushed into the streets overnight alarmed by a television prediction of another powerful earthquake.

But as darkness fell over Chengdu on Tuesday thousands of residents prepared makeshift shelters to sleep outside, too afraid to stay overnight in their homes.