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The number of dead following a devastating earthquake that hit southwest
The number of dead following a devastating earthquake that hit southwest China three days ago has exceeded 19,500, the official Xinhua news agency said on Thursday.

The quake, measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale, was the worst to hit the country in more than three decades, and affected eight provinces, with Sichuan suffering the bulk of the devastation.

More than 5,500 people had been rescued from the rubble as of 8:00 a.m. (midnight GMT) on Thursday. Around 25,000 people are believed to still be trapped under collapsed buildings.

The agency said a three-year-old girl was saved in the Beichuan county, in China's Sichuan province, after being trapped under the bodies of her parents amid the rubble for more than 40 hours.

A total of 64,000 people have been hospitalized, with over 12,000 of them severely injured. No epidemics have so far been reported in the quake-hit region, Deputy Health Minister Gao Qiang told Xinhua.

"We have made careful plans for disease control and prevention in disaster areas and have sent a large group of medical workers to those areas to carry out the plans," he said.

Some 14,000 people are said to be unaccounted for near the epicenter of the quake, which was located some 60 miles (96 km) northwest of Sichuan's provincial capital, Chengdu. Deaths have also been reported in neighboring Shaanxi and Gansu provinces.

More than 9 million people have been evacuated from the affected areas. Authorities fear that the death toll could rise, and the national meteorological center is warning that more tremors could strike the country.

An estimated 100,000 Chinese troops are involved in the ongoing relief operation. Rescue workers are currently only able to reach areas close to the epicenter by air and water. A total of 20 helicopters have been dispatched for 'reconnaissance, food and water airdropping,' and an additional 60 helicopters are planned to be sent.

The government has allocated over $160 million in emergency aid for the quake-hit areas, while Chinese citizens have donated over $120 million in the past two days to help the victims of the disaster.

Russian rescuers have flown to China to assist the relief operation. A third Russian transport plane is expected to arrive in China on Thursday.

Russia sent two aircraft carrying a total of 60 tons of humanitarian aid to China on Wednesday.


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