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68,712 dead from May 12 earthquake in Sichuan
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The death toll from China's May 12 earthquake last year in Sichuan Province remains at 68,712, said authorities with the civil affairs department of the provincial government Thursday morning.

Another 17,921 people in Sichuan were missing after the disaster, said Huang Mingquan, head of the civil affairs department.

Both numbers were unchanged from those released last year.

It takes time for local governments to re-classify the missing as dead. Under the law, relatives can apply to have a person registered as dead two years after they have been counted as missing in an accident or disaster.

The final death toll would be checked and announced by the State Council, authorities with the Civil Affairs Ministry said last June.

Huang noted that the disaster left 630 orphans, 635 bereaved elderly people and 184 bereaved handicapped people, of whom 1,182 were re-settled.

About 4.45 million people in the province were injured in the quake, of whom 143,367 had been hospitalized, including 10,015 sent out of the province for medical treatment.

More than 7,000 people in Sichuan were disabled by the quake, the official said.

The province, the epicenter of the quake, had so far received about 15.75 billion yuan (about 2.31 billion U.S. dollars) in donations, according to Huang Jinsheng, head of the provincial finance department.

He said that the province itself had received 9.13 billion yuan, while the remainder had been forwarded to prefectures and counties. The official vowed to strictly monitor and publicize the use of donations.

Reconstruction work is progressing.

According to Yu Wei, spokesman with the provincial government, more than 241,000 houses in rural areas of the quake zone and 105,000 urban and township apartments were under construction. Yu said 1 million units of housing in rural areas and 33,000 in cities had been finished.

Rebuilding of rural houses was expected to be finished by the end of September, while those in cities would be completed by next May, he said.

Reconstruction of 46.2 percent of the damaged clinics and hospitals had started, Yu said, adding that the rebuilding work of 99 percent of basic public service facilities including clinics and hospitals across the province would be completed in two years.

Governments had helped nearly 1.3 million survivors find new jobs, Yu said.

(Xinhua News Agency May 7, 2009)

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