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Premier Wen Calls for Nationwide Efforts in Rescue, Relief

Rescue operation and disaster relief for victims in the worst earthquake over decades are of top priority of the nation, and thus require concerted efforts from the whole country, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said Thursday night.

Monday's 7.8-magnitude earthquake that ravaged southwestern Sichuan Province and was felt in most parts of the country was the "most destructive" tremor and had the "most wide-spreading impact" since New China was founded in 1949, Wen said on a meeting of the rescue headquarters under the State Council headed by himself.

It was even more powerful than the Tangshan earthquake in 1976, Wen said. The catastrophe in northern Hebei Province claimed about 240,000 lives three decades ago.

He hailed the efficiency and order the country has maintained for the past 80 hours as the country focused its resources on saving lives and disaster relief work for quake victims.

He said the government will stick to its "people-first" policy in its future rescue operations and reconstruction works.

"Saving lives is still our top priority, as long as hope of survival still exists," Wen said, urging that social stability to be maintained.

He warned relevant authorities to pay special attention to the prevention of plagues.

He said supplies of food, medicines, and tents must be ensured.

More than 50,000 people are feared dead in Sichuan alone after Monday's earthquake, with confirmed death toll in the province hitting 19,509 by Thursday afternoon.

(Xinhua News Agency May 16, 2008)

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