In China, Number of Earthquake Deaths Is Expected to Top 50,000

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This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

Thousands of soldiers and civilian volunteers continue rescue and relief efforts after Monday's huge earthquake in southwestern China.  Thousands of  people are believed to still be buried under collapsed buildings.

Officials say the number of dead is expected to rise to more than fifty thousand. On Friday, Chinese President Hu Jintao arrived in Sichuan Province to support earthquake relief efforts.  Hundreds of thousands of people are without homes.  Health officials warn that a lack of food, clean water and medical supplies could lead to the spread of disease.  Officials also warn that dams and other structures weakened by the earthquake could still collapse.

So far, China has received international aid worth more than two hundred million dollars.  But officials say the country still needs tools, equipment, temporary shelters and medicine.  The Chinese government made a rare public appeal Thursday for tools used for digging and moving wreckage.  Some rescuers have been digging through building wreckage with only their hands.

Airplanes carrying aid and volunteers from Taiwan landed in China on Thursday. The first foreign rescue team arrived Friday in Sichuan Province from Japan.  China has also agreed to accept teams from Russia, Singapore and South Korea.

Chinese state television has shown Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in areas where the earthquake hit, talking to survivors and directing relief work.

The Chinese government has sent about one hundred thirty thousand military and aid workers to Sichuan Province.  It has also deployed more than one hundred helicopters to transport victims and drop emergency supplies to survivors. The state-run Xinhua news agency reports the government has also ordered temporary controls on food prices and transportation costs in affected areas.

However, many survivors are criticizing the government's delays in sending help to affected areas. Others have questioned the safety of public schools and hospital buildings. Many schools collapsed, killing classrooms full of children.  Thousands of parents lost their only child in the quake because China's population control policies limit most families to having one child.

Also this week, aid organizations said the number of victims of a severe storm in Burma could reach more than one hundred thousand.  The storm struck Burma's Irrawaddy Delta on May third.  The United Nations says as many as two million survivors need food, water, shelter and medicine.

Pressure continues on Burma's military government to permit international aid organizations to help the survivors. A U.N. spokesman in the country says some aid is reaching affected areas but it is not enough.

And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake.  Our reports can be found on our Web site at voaspecialenglish.com.  I'm Steve Ember.

Voice of America Special English

Source: In China, Number of Earthquake Deaths Is Expected to Top 50,000
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