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More medical personnel should be sent to the quake zones, along with urgently-needed medical supplies, tents and temporary housing units, the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee said at a meeting yesterday.

Local authorities should mount all-out efforts to prevent disease outbreaks, and guard against quake-induced disasters, such as aftershocks and flooding, it said.

Efforts to search for survivors should continue, but there should be more focus on resettlement and reconstruction, the political bureau said, urging the whole nation to help.

"The country should maintain economic development and social stability while engaging in quake relief work," it said.

"Quake relief is still at a crucial stage", and the government should stick to a "people-first" policy, it said.

The meeting, presided over by President Hu Jintao, said the 8.0-magnitude quake on May 12 was the "most powerful" tremor with the "most widespread impact" and the most challenging for disaster relief since New China was founded in 1949.

Top legislator Wu Bangguo yesterday arrived in Chengdu, where he visited a hospital and a relief material distribution center.

The death toll from the quake rose to 65,080 by noon yesterday, with 360,058 injured and 23,150 missing, according to the Information Office of the State Council.

Domestic and foreign donations reached 30.9 billion yuan ($4.4 billion) by noon yesterday, the information office said.

Transportation and telecommunications as well as power and water supplies in the quake zones must be restored as soon as possible, the political bureau said, adding livelihoods should be provided for orphans, the widowed elderly with no children and the handicapped who lost relatives.

It ordered government officials to "stand on the frontline" of relief work.

As of noon yesterday, 182 aftershocks measuring magnitude 4 or above had been monitored in Sichuan, according to the China Seismological Bureau, including 28 aftershocks measuring above magnitude 5.

The strongest aftershock was of magnitude 6.4 on Sunday afternoon, centered on Qingchuan county, which killed at least 8 and leaving more than 900 injured.

About 14.38 million people have been relocated since May 12.

Hospitals have admitted 83,527, of whom 53,247 have been discharged.

Meanwhile, almost 500,000 tents have been delivered to quake-affected areas, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

About 96 percent of households in quake-stricken areas in Sichuan have had their electricity restored, according to Sichuan Electric Power Corporation. But Beichuan county is suffering from a blackout.

Local officials have promised a special investigation into the collapse of Beichuan Middle School, where up to 1,300 children and teachers died in the quake.

"We will preserve all the buildings, whether collapsed or not, for experts to investigate," Zuo Daifu, Mianyang vice-mayor, was quoted as saying by the First Financial Daily.

"Most of the experts will be dispatched soon by the central government," he said.

"The builders will be held responsible if the work is found to be shoddy."

Two teaching buildings in the school were leveled and another, where 508 students were having classes, was badly damaged.

A spokesman for the Education Ministry yesterday also pledged to investigate the school building quality.

(China Daily May 27, 2008)

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