Death toll in China quake passes 55,000

The death toll in the huge quake in China’s Sichuan province went above 55,000 Friday with 25,000 others still missing, while a provincial leader said the region plans to rebuild the quake zone within three years.

BEICHUAN, China — The death toll in the huge quake in China’s Sichuan province went above 55,000 Friday with 25,000 others still missing, while a provincial leader said the region plans to rebuild the quake zone within three years.

Sichuan’s Vice Governor Li Chengyun told a news conference that the priority for now remains saving anyone surviving in the rubble 11 days after the quake — though no one has been found alive since Wednesday — along with preventing disease in the affected areas.

“We will not give up on trying to save people,” Li said.

Li also repeated government requests for tents following China’s worst quake in 30 years. “We still need them for the five million people who need to be housed,” he told a news conference in Beijing.

Li said the number of confirmed deaths in Sichuan alone was 55,239 — up about 4,000 from the previous day — with 24,949 people missing. He said 50,766 bodies had already been buried or cremated. Hundreds of people have also been confirmed dead in several provinces around Sichuan.

Despite Li’s comments about continuing the search for survivors, it appeared those efforts were giving way to the first steps toward reconstruction.

Li said the province has a three-year goal to rebuild towns and infrastructure after the May 12 quake.

Housing the newly homeless has also been extremely difficult, with China making repeated international appeals for tents.

To reinforce the point, President Hu Jintao visited two tent manufacturing companies, where he was shown on state television urging workers to boost production to help their countrymen.

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