BEIJING (AFP) — The earthquake which struck China earlier this week was the "most destructive" in the country since 1949, Premier Wen Jiabao was quoted as saying early Friday by state media.
The 7.9-magnitude quake that hit southwestern Sichuan province on Monday also had the "most wide-spreading impact" of any earthquake since the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949, Xinhua news agency quoted Wen as saying.
It was even more powerful than the Tangshan earthquake in 1976, Wen was reported saying late Thursday at a meeting of the rescue headquarters in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province.
That quake claimed about 240,000 lives, with the death toll for Monday's estimated so far to be over 50,000, state television said Thursday.
Wen, seen repeatedly on state TV cradling infants and offering hope to earthquake victims, hailed the "order the country has maintained for the past 80 hours," the report said.
"Saving lives is still our top priority, as long as hope of survival still exists," Wen was reported to have said, urging social stability be maintained.
Wen is also reported to have warned relevant authorities to pay special attention to the prevention of plagues and said supplies of food, medicines, and tents must be ensured.
"We must use all our forces, and save lives at whatever cost. Life is the most precious thing," Wen earlier told another meeting.
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