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Quake death toll nears 20,000
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The State Council's disaster relief headquarters say the confirmed death toll stands 19,509. Those figures were as of late Thursday. Meanwhile, more than 12,000 people are still believed to be buried beneth the rubble. Rescue and relief workers are racing against time.

A mother deadly cries after knowing her child lost life in the devastating earthquake in Sichuan Province May 15, 2008. (Xinhua/Yao Dawei)

The road linking the quake's epicenter, Wenchuan, to neighboring Lixian has reopened. Dujiangyan City, one of the worst hit areas, has resumed water and power supplies. Beichuan County and Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture are still without power, but electricity has been restored in most of the affected regions.

Telecommunication cables connecting Wenchuan with other parts of the country were repaired on Thursday afternoon. The highway linking Beichuan County with Mianyang City re-opened on Thursday morning, allowing heavy rescue machinery to enter Beichuan.

The Air Force dropped the first delivery of heavy rescue machinery at the epicenter in Yingxiu town of Wenchuan County on Thursday night, making further rescue efforts easier. 360 children have been rescued at a middle school in Beichuan County, but more than 700 are still trapped.

Another strong aftershock jolted Yingxiu Town. Rocks rolled down from the hills and some houses damaged by the original earthquake, collapsed completely.

At least 270 students were confirmed dead by Thursday morning at a middle school in Qingchuan County. A three-storey dormitory collapsed on about 400 students who were taking an afternoon nap when the earthquake struck. The school has more than 850 students. Only 139 escaped from the dormitory when the quake happened. Rescuers are still searching for the missing.

By Thursday night, the death toll in Mianzhu county had risen to 4,000. 40,000 are injured. Rescuers have saved more than 60 thousand trapped by collapsed houses.

The quake destroyed 70 percent of the houses in the county, more than 200 thousand homes. Power and water are still cut off there. Three towns are still out of reach. In downtown of the county, thousands of residents spent the night outdoors, and are desperately in need of tents, food and water.

(CCTV May 16, 2008)


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