China quake death toll rises to 51,000

Thursday 22 May 2008 22.53
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China - Over 29,000 people still missing after quake
China - Over 29,000 people still missing after quake
Dalai Lama - China's response to earthquake 'encouraging'
Dalai Lama - China's response to earthquake 'encouraging'

China has said the death toll from the most devastating earthquake in three decades has reached 51,151, with 29,328 people still missing.

Authorities had previously expected the final death toll to exceed 50,000.

Figures released today from China's Information Office of the State Council show that the number of dead increased by nearly 10,000 from the previous day.

It said more than 288,000 people were injured by the 7.9-magnitude quake in Sichuan province in southwest China on 12 May.

Today China ordered the immediate construction of 1m small homes to provide shelter to people left homeless by the earthquake.

The housing ministry issued a directive ordering local authorities to build 1m 20sq.m homes by 10 August.

The buildings will be made of light steel, plywood and other materials so that they are less dangerous in quakes and recyclable once more permanent housing is completed.

The houses would be used for three to five years.

The ministry also ordered the construction of one primary school, one clinic and one store for every 1,000 temporary homes, according to the state Xinhua news agency.

An international appeal for 3.3m tents for immediate use has also been issued.

The Dalai Lama has said that China's response to the earthquake disaster shows encouraging signs of openness. However, he said that Beijing still lacks the moral authority of a true superpower.

Tibet's spiritual leader in exile was speaking on the third day of a visit to Britain. He is due to discuss the human rights situation in the Chinese autonomous region at a session with British MPs today.

He said the way in which China was dealing with the disaster was an indication that it is changing and becoming more open.

He said the authorities' reaction to the quake was 'one sign that the People's Republic of China is changing, I think at least decade by decade.

'Hopefully now (this will) lead to a more transparent attitude in other fields, including the Tibet case,' he added.