Ban Ki-moon: 'whole world' stands with China

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited China's earthquake-ravaged Sichuan province Saturday, telling the country's prime minister "the whole world stands with you," as officials warned the death toll could reach 80,000.

Ban met with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao in Yingxiu, one of the towns badly crippled by the 7.9-magnitude tremor when it struck on May 12.

"If we work hard, we can overcome this," Ban told Wen.

Ban came to China directly from Burma, where he had surveyed the damage left by Cyclone Nargis. He said the United Nations would provide China with reconstruction assistance, once China fully assessed the damage.

In Beijing, a government spokesperson told reporters Saturday that the official death toll was 60,560. But Wen said that number could rise by a further 20,000, roughly equal to the amount of people still missing.

He also said China is now focusing on reconstruction and finding new homes for survivors, rather than using all of its resources to find survivors.

However, officials are still hoping to reach 24 coal miners trapped underground since the quake struck on May 12.

It's not known if the miners are dead or alive, Wang Dexue, deputy chief of the government's work safety department said.

"We have had the miracle in the past that a miner was found alive after being trapped underground for 21 days," Wang told a news conference in Beijing. "We are carrying out rescue work on the assumption that they are still alive. We absolutely will not give up.'"

The 24 miners are trapped in three mines in Sichuan province.

Meanwhile, Chinese experts searched for 15 radiation sources buried in the debris created by the earthquake. About 50 sources of potential radiation were thought to be underneath rubble, and 35 have been secured.

China recovering

With thousands displaced from their ruined homes, relief workers are struggling to find them tents and food. Wen said that China needs about 900,000 tents for the displaced and is urging Chinese manufacturers to make 30,000 a day.

Despite still working on getting relief into the disaster zone, China is shifting focus to the area's long-term reconstruction.

"Previously our main priority was the search and rescue of affected people," Wen said. "Our priority now is to resettle the affected people, and to make plans for the post-quake reconstruction."

About 15 million homes were destroyed in the quake.

Much like Burma, there are worries about an outbreak of disease and Wen said that 10,000 medical workers are in the disaster area to help.

"The second major challenge facing us is epidemic prevention and control," he said.

Also on Saturday, eight pandas arrived in Beijing after the long journey from their damaged reserve which was near the quake's epicentre.

The pandas will spend the next six months at the Beijing Zoo as part of an official Olympics visit. The visit had been planned long before the earthquake.


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