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Massive quake heavily mauls tourist paradise
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The worst earthquake to hit China in decades has inflicted not only huge casualties but also heavy losses to the popular tourist destination of southwestern Sichuan Province.

The 8.0-magnitude quake that struck the province's Wenchuan County on May 12 has incurred at least 70 billion yuan (US$10 billion) of economic loss to the local tourism industry. The amount was more than half of last year's total tourism revenue, said Zhang Gu, Sichuan Provincial Tourism Bureau director.

"The figure of losses is likely to rise further as aftershocks continue," he said.

Some 568 tourist attractions among about 4,000 in total in the province were damaged by the quake, causing 27.84 billion yuan in losses, he said.

Sichuan is a paradise for tourists, with its spectacular natural scenery and five sites on the United Nations cultural agency's World Heritage List. It is best known as home of the endangered giant pandas.

Last year, the province reported tourism revenue of 121.73 billion yuan, up 24.3 percent from a year earlier. The figure accounted for about 11.6 percent of Sichuan's gross domestic product.

The massive quake severely damaged some scenic spots at the Mount Qingcheng and Dujiangyan Irrigation System, and the Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries -- both on the World Heritage List.

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