Rain forecast could hamper quake relief

Forecasts of rain added to worries Sunday about relief efforts to house millions of people left homeless by China's massive earthquake nearly two weeks ago.

The government warned that heavy rain was on the way, possibly hampering work to get temporary shelters up to house the estimated 5 million who lost their homes in Sichuan province in the May 12 earthquake.

The State Meteorological Bureau said Sunday that parts of Sichuan would suffer "heavy and even in some areas torrential rains" later Sunday and on Monday. The bureau warned of "possible mudslides" caused by the heavy rain.

Rescuers were also trying to reach 24 coal miners who officials said were trapped in three mines by the disaster, though they didn't know if the miners were alive.

State television reported Sunday that a survivor was pulled alive from the rubble of China's earthquake on Friday, more than 11 days after the earthquake hit.

It said Xiao Zhihu, an 80-year-old bedridden man, was rescued in Mianzhu north of the provincial capital Chengdu after being trapped in his collapsed house. The report said he survived because his wife was able to get food into him through the rubble. It did not give details or say why it took two days to report Xiao's rescue.

There were no further details of the trapped miners. China's mines are the world's deadliest, with explosions, cave-ins and floods killing nearly 3,800 people last year.

The confirmed death toll in China's biggest disaster in three decades was 60,560, with the State Council, China's Cabinet, saying 26,221 people were still missing.

But Premier Wen Jiabao, who accompanied U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on a brief visit Saturday to one of the areas worst hit by the 7.9-magnitude quake, has warned the toll could go much higher.

"It may further climb to a level of 70,000, 80,000 or more," Wen said, standing amid the rubble in Yingxiu. The jump could occur as the number of missing are added to the number of dead.

Some people paused Sunday to attend church almost two weeks after the quake hit. In Chengdu, worshippers gathered at the Ping'an Bridge Catholic church to offer special prayers for the victims and to the government to overcome the crisis.

Ban, who came to China directly from cyclone-stricken Myanmar, promised the U.N. would help with reconstruction and that it was waiting for China's assessment of what was needed.

The U.N. secretary-general later left China to attend an aid donors' conference in Myanmar for cyclone victims on Sunday.

About 4,800 of Yingxiu's 18,000 people were killed in the quake, a military officer told Ban during a tour.

The mountains in central Sichuan showed huge tracks of naked earth from landslides. Layers of mud covered fields. Rivers churned brown. Yingxiu itself was largely piles of rubble, and the buildings left standing had caved in, giving the surreal impression that they had melted.

The official Xinhua News Agency said China's customs office had streamlined entry procedures for relief materials and rescue personnel. It said that on Saturday, 47 batches of overseas relief materials, including tents and medicine, and rescuers had arrived in quake-hit areas.

Aid is being sent by large and small countries.

Russia's Itar-Tass news agency said the first of eight military transport planes carrying tents, medicine and food landed Sunday in Chengdu. It said other flights would arrive by Monday afternoon.

A plane from Sri Lanka would land Sunday in Chengdu carrying tents, clothes and other relief materials, Xinhua said.

China desperately needs tents to house the homeless. The quake destroyed more than 15 million homes, Wen said. He said the government needed 900,000 tents, and urged Chinese manufacturers to make 30,000 a day, AP reported.

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