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Over 87,000 feared dead in May 12 earthquake
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It is feared the death toll in the 8.0-magnitude earthquake centered in Wenchuan County on May 12 in the southwestern Province of Sichuan will top 87,000, an expert said on Thursday.

"The death toll for the quake had topped 69,000 by mid July, with another 18,000 missing," Shi Peijun with the National Wenchuan Earthquake Expert Committee told a press conference Thursday morning.

"Given that it has been three months since the deadly earthquake struck, the hope of survival for those missing is very slim," Shi said.

More than 87,000 are feared dead combining the two figures together, he said.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao also said on Tuesday that the death toll for the deadly quake had topped 80,000 at a press conference held in Yingxiu, one of the worst-hit township at the epicenter Wenchuan County.

In addition, direct economic losses for the May 12 earthquake hit 845.1 billion yuan (about 121 billion US dollars).

The southwestern province of Sichuan where the quake was centered suffered the most, accounting for 91.3 percent of the total direct economic losses, Shi said.

Its neighbouring provinces Gansu and Shaanxi accounted for 5.8 and 2.9 percent of the losses, respectively.

More than 70 percent of the losses came from damaged dwelling buildings, school and hospital facilities and infrastructure such as roads and bridges.

Another press conference would be held on Thursday afternoon to provide more specific figures, according to the Information Office of the State Council.

(Xinhua News Agency September 4, 2008)

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