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China: 40,000 dead, 5 million homeless after quake

SHARE China: 40,000 dead, 5 million homeless after quake

CHENGDU, China — China said it was struggling to find shelter for many of the 5 million people whose homes were destroyed in last week's earthquake, while the confirmed death toll rose Tuesday to more than 40,000.

Meanwhile, rescuers pulled a 31-year-old man to safety, the second known case of someone being found alive a week after the May 12 earthquake struck Sichuan province. Ma Yuanjiang was saved from the debris of the Yingxiu Bay Hydropower Plant, where he worked as a director, after a 30-hour rescue effort, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

Ma was able to speak and began to eat small amounts of food, colleague Wu Geng told the agency. A miner was rescued after being trapped for 170 hours Monday, Xinhua said.

The State Council, China's Cabinet, raised the overall confirmed death toll to 40,075, most of those died in Sichuan province. Officials have said the final number killed by the quake is expected to surpass 50,000.

Another 32,361 people remained missing across the quake zone, said the council.

The government was setting up temporary housing for quake victims unable to find shelter with relatives, but there was a "desperate need for tents" to accommodate them, said Jiang Li, vice minister of civil affairs.

She told reporters in Beijing that nearly 280,000 tents had been shipped to the area and 700,000 more ordered, with factories working triple shifts to meet demand.

Another 480,000 quilts and 1.7 million jackets were also sent to quake survivors, Jiang said.

Five million people lost their homes in the quake, she said.

"Despite generous donations, the disaster is so great that victims still face a challenge in finding living accommodations," Jiang said.

China has said it would accept foreign medical teams, as the relief efforts shifted from searching for survivors to caring for the homeless. A growing number of countries responded to the call, dispatching doctors to the quake area Tuesday.

A Russian medical team with a mobile hospital arrived Tuesday in the Sichuan provincial capital Chengdu, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said. A 37-member medical team sent by the Taiwan Red Cross organization also arrived in the disaster zone.

Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said a 23-member medical team will leave Tuesday for China. Crews of doctors were also en route from Germany and Italy, Qin said.

"China is willing to work closely" with outside doctors, Qin told a news conference.

Other countries and groups have also offered to send medical teams, but China has not given permission to allow all of them to help.

"But given the situation, and difficulties in the area, including transportation and telecommunications, it is not possible for us to accept all of the rescue and medical teams to engage in relief work," Qin said.

Rescue workers resumed the search for bodies on the second day of a three-day national mourning period declared by the Chinese government, an unprecedented gesture to honor the dead.

A crew of volunteers from Tangshan, the Chinese city that suffered the country's worst quake in 1976 that killed at least 240,000 people, arrived in the quake area.

"Now it's time for us to help the others that are suffering," said Song Zhixian, a farmer among a group of 15 older men wearing red hard hats and vests. "It is part of the Chinese virtue and spirit: when one place suffers, then everyone else helps."

Because of plans to bury bodies quickly, the government said DNA samples will be taken from corpses to help with later identification, Xinhua said. Identified bodies will be cremated, although burial will be allowed where no cremation is possible.

Thirty-two radioactive sources were also buried under rubble, Xinhua reported, citing Minister of Environmental Protection Zhou Shengxian.

Only two have not been recovered, although authorities have located them and restricted access to nearby areas, Zhou was cited as saying. They were expected to be transported to safety soon. The rest have been disposed of.

The Chinese government has previously said all nuclear facilities affected by the earthquake were safe and under control, but did not give any details.

During the three-day mourning period, flags were flying at half-staff and entertainment events have been canceled. The Olympic torch relay has also been suspended.

Thousands of quake survivors awoke Tuesday after spending a night sleeping in cars and in the open, frightened by government warnings of a potential strong aftershock. The alarm compounded uneasiness in the region, which has been rumbled by dozens of aftershocks since the May 12 quake.

A panda from the Wolong Nature Preserve that disappeared during the quake returned safely, but two of the endangered animals were still missing, Xinhua reported. The others were "very likely to be alive," forestry official Xiong Beirong told the agency, because they were adults.

Oil and gas operations in the region devastated by last week's earthquake in central China are virtually back to normal, state-owned oil and gas giant CNPC said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, China's banking regulators ordered banks to ensure adequate loans and other support for companies and individuals in the area.

The State Council, China's cabinet, said donations for disaster relief had reached $1.5 billion.