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China earthquake death toll nears 70,000

BEIJING, June 24 (RIA Novosti) - The death toll from the powerful earthquake that devastated China's southwest province of Sichuan on May 12 has risen to 69,185, the country's State Council said Tuesday.

An official statement said 374,171 people had been injured in the disaster, and that 18,467 were listed as missing. Chinese Vice-Premier Hui Liangyu said earlier Tuesday the death toll from the earthquake was expected to exceed 80,000.

The earthquake, measuring 8.0 on the Richter scale according to the China Seismological Bureau, was the worst to hit the country in more than three decades. More than 46 million people were affected.

More than 13,000 aftershocks have been detected since May 12, with five measuring above 6 on the Richter scale.

Chinese experts said the country is likely to experience a number of earthquakes measuring 7 or higher on the Richter scale over the next 15 years.

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