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Parents Coming Forward to Claim Quake 'Orphans'

The number of prospective orphans left by China's May 12 earthquake is falling dramatically as more children are reunited with their parents, say officials.

In Sichuan Province on Wednesday, the number of unclaimed children was down to about 1,000 compared with more than 8,000 in the first couple of days after the earthquake, which killed at least 68,000 people, said Ye Lu, director of social welfare at the Sichuan provincial civil affairs department.

The children without parents were being cared for at children's homes or staying with relatives, Ye said.

Civil affairs authorities have been overwhelmed with telephone calls from families seeking to adopt those orphaned by China's worst earthquake in three decades.

"Our department had to answer up to 2,000 calls from around the country every day asking to adopt orphans," said Ye.

Overseas Chinese were also eager to adopt quake orphans, according to media reports.

In the Zhitong County home for children, 27 of the 31 youngsters sent to the home after the earthquake had been found by their parents or relatives by Thursday, said the home's head, Zhang Ping.

Zhang said she received dozens of calls from Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and other cities everyday from people asking to adopt children.

"I really appreciate their kindness. However, I tell them we are still looking for the parents and the kids are not regarded as orphans yet," Zhang said.

Six-year-old Tang Junhao, one of the four children still in the Zhitong home, said he had milk, eggs and meat everyday. He mimicked gestures for the heroes of the popular Japanese cartoon Ultraman in front of visitors.

Sichuan has set up a temporary "school of love" at the Southwestern University of Finance and Economics in the provincial capital of Chengdu, so that more than 1,000 children in the province could resume classes after their own schools collapsed or were damaged.

(Xinhua News Agency May 30, 2008)

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