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Health experts say corpses pose little direct threat of communicable diseases or contamination, although the misconception that they do is widespread.

“People are quite traumatized after an event like this and they know that there are bodies underneath the rubble,” said Paul Garwood, spokesman for the World Health Organization in Geneva. “So the disinfection measures provide reassurance and support.”

Some 400,000 tents have been delivered to quake victims, and thousands of prefabricated huts have been erected. Still, the need for more was urgent.

“We need more than 3.3 million tents,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters today, renewing an international appeal.

To reinforce the point, President Hu Jintao visited two tent manufacturing companies, where he was shown on state TV urging workers to boost production to help their countrymen.

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

Debris from the earthquake had created blocked rivers and streams, creating 34 “barrier lakes” that could become unstable.

“The water level in some lakes is high and rising,” he said. “If there’s a break, it will cause severe damage,” Yun Xiaosu, vice minister of land and resources, told reporters in Beijing. Yun said that people at risk had been evacuated.

The Olympic torch resumed its relay through China following a three-day national mourning period for quake victims.

Hu chaired a meeting on the quake today by China’s highest governing body, where leaders vowed to continue the rescue effort “to the last village,” according to a statement.

But in Beichuan, gone is the constant whine of sirens, the legion of shovel-toting soldiers and orange-suited rescue workers who rushed from one mountain of debris to the next looking for survivors in the days immediately after the tremor.

The town now sits abandoned. Excavators and cranes have started to raze buildings. Aside from the workers disinfecting the ruins, a handful of displaced residents were allowed in to scrounge through rubble for their belongings. They left struggling with suitcases and bags filled with clothes and other personal items dug out from what used to be their homes.

Officials say they plan to rebuild Beichuan in a new area. Provincial official Hou Xiongfei said no decision had yet been made on the location.

Many who returned to Beichuan for the first time since the quake stood in awe at the destruction.

“Look at that, just look at that,” one man said to friend as they stood on an overlook, surveying the surreal skyline of crooked buildings and wiped out roads.

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