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Stranded tourists, including 50 foreigners, reported safe
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Tourists and journalists, including more than 50 foreigners, stranded at a town near the epicenter of Monday's earthquake in southwest China's Sichuan Province were safe, a local official said on Wednesday.

No deaths or injuries have been reported from the stranded tourists and journalists who have been stranded at the panda town of Wolong in Wenchuan County, the epicenter, the official said.

"They have been arranged to stay in a local hotel," said Zhang Wenxiang, of the Wolong Giant Panda Administration.

Telecommunications had been cut for Wolong, famous for the China Wolong Giant Panda Protection and Research Center, since Monday.

The foreigners included 12 Americans from the World Wide Fund for Nature, Zhang said.

"Wolong and the neighboring Gengda township suffered a lot in the earthquake. Roads were destroyed by landslides and 90 percent of local houses collapsed," he said.

"We are in great shortage of medicine," he added.

A 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Wenchuan Monday afternoon and it was also felt in most parts of the county.

The death toll across the country has risen to 14,866, the latest government statistics show.

Among those, 14,463 were confirmed dead in Sichuan Province, 280 in Gansu Province, 106 in Shaanxi Province, 14 in Chongqing Municipality, two in Henan Province, one in Yunnan Province and one in Hubei Province.

After the earthquake, a number of travel agencies in different provinces of China have reported that tourists had been stranded in Sichuan.

On Wednesday, a Taiwanese tourist surnamed Wang fell 50 meters from a cable car during a rescue mission and died after treatment failed, bringing the death toll of Taiwan compatriots to two in the aftermath of Monday's Sichuan quake.

Meanwhile, 1,958 Taiwanese tourists are still awaiting for flights back to Taiwan, with 588 stranded in Jiuzhaigou, a tourist attraction in Sichuan.

Fourteen tourists with a Taiwan-based travel agency named "Auspicious Crane" are still out of reach for the time being. Taiwan local media predicted that they were probably trapped on their way from Maoxian county to Wenchuan.

The National Tourism Administration has ordered all local travel agencies to halt its planned journeys destined to or passing through quake-hit areas.

(Xinhua News Agency May 14, 2008)

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