Chinese earthquake death toll jumps to 80,000

China said the toll of dead and missing from last week's powerful earthquake jumped to more than 80,000, while the government appealed Thursday for millions of tents to shelter homeless survivors.

The confirmed number of dead rose to 51,151, up almost 10,000 from the day before, Cabinet spokesman Guo Weimin told a news conference. Another 29,328 people remained missing and nearly 300,000 were hurt in the May 12 quake centered in Sichuan province, he said.

No rescues of buried survivors had been reported Thursday or in the last 24 hours.

The disaster also left some 5 million people homeless, leveling buildings and schools in remote towns and villages near the epicenter. In bigger cities, whole apartment blocks collapsed or are now too dangerous to live in because of damage and worries about aftershocks.

"We need more than 3.3 million tents," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said, renewing an international appeal from the Chinese government. He said 400,000 tents have already been delivered to quake victims.

"We hope and welcome international assistance in this regard. We hope the international community can give priority in providing tents," he told reporters.

Underscoring the need, Chinese President Hu Jintao visited two tent manufacturing companies in eastern Zhejiang province, urging workers to boost production to meet needs from the disaster area, state media reported.

Meanwhile, Commerce Minister Chen Deming thanked foreign companies in China for quake aid, rejecting criticism on Chinese Web sites that called them "international misers" for failing to do enough.

Chen said foreign companies have given 1.95 billion yuan (US$281 million, EUR 178 million) in cash and supplies.

In the effort to assure people the government was placing top priority on relief efforts, Premier Wen Jiabao returned Thursday to the disaster zone, the official Xinhua News Agency said - his second trip there following a visit immediately after the quake.

The government is also grappling with official estimates of more than 4,000 children orphaned by the quake, and received hundreds calls from people offering to adopt them.

Anger that so many children died because their school buildings were poorly built continued to simmer online and in state media. The Southern Metropolis News quoted a rescuer as saying that rubble from the Juyuan high school, where more than 270 students died, showed that no steel reinforcing bars were used in construction, only iron wire.

Pictures posted online of Wufu town, where some 200 students died when the Fuxin No. 2 Primary School collapsed, showed roads lined with wreaths. Piles of dusty school bags were among the rubble.

"The children did not die because of a natural disaster, they died because of a dangerous building," read a hand-painted banner strung across a roadway.

In Beichuan, the smell of bleach was overpowering as rescue workers in white safety suits sprayed disinfectant in the area. Villagers were picking up medicine from stands set up by the government.

The town's government offices opened Thursday at a hotel in neighboring Anxian county.

"Our previous office buildings collapsed, but our responsibilities, never," Ma Yun, head of the county's administrative office, told Xinhua.

The military was still using helicopters to evacuate survivors from the epicenter. Many do not know if they will be able to return as their homes have been destroyed.

"Cracks are everywhere in the house. We cannot continue to live there anymore. There is no choice but to live outside," said Yu Yuanhong, a hospital worker from Wenchuan who was flown to the provincial capital of Chengdu.

The central government warned of the risk of secondary disasters from blocked streams, earthquake-loosened soil, mudslides and the upcoming rainy season.

Avoiding further geological disasters during relief work and rebuilding will be a "daunting task," said Yun Xiaosu, vice minister of land and resources.

The earthquake and aftershocks created 34 lakes, as debris blocked rivers and streams throughout the earthquake area.

"The water level in some lakes is high and rising," he said. "If there's a break, it will cause severe damage."

People who might fall victim to potential floods already have been evacuated, he said.

The region's rainy season starts in June, creating further problems and risks of major mudslides, Yun said.

Meanwhile, the Olympic torch relay resumed its run through China following a three-day national mourning period for quake victims.

The relay, a symbol of the country's hopes for the Beijing Olympics, started with a minute of silence at a container terminal in the eastern seaport city of Ningbo. The torch run has been toned down from its previous boisterous celebration of the upcoming Olympics since the quake.

"Your love is our hope," said the first torchbearer, crane operator Zhu Shijie. "We all must fight the earthquake together."

Beijing Olympics organizers also said in a statement that the relay's Sichuan leg would be delayed "to support the disaster relief efforts." Originally planned for next month, the leg now will take place just before the start of the Aug. 8 games.

In another sign of attempts to return to normal after the quake, officials in the Sichuan provincial capital of Chengdu ordered all government bodies and companies to resume regular operations, Xinhua reported.