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Last Updated: Friday, 6 February, 2004, 12:08 GMT
China probes 'bird rain' deaths
China is investigating reports that hundreds of birds mysteriously fell from the sky earlier this week.

Some 10,000 bramblings dropped dead in a "bird rain" in the eastern province of Jiangsu, the Yangzi Evening News and the Nanjing Daily newspapers reported.

The deaths occurred near Communist Party chief Hu Jintao's birthplace of Taizhou, prompting some superstitious locals to wonder if it was a bad omen at the start of the new Lunar Year.

But a local official said a more likely cause of death was poisoning.

"Dead birds have been retrieved from villagers," the spokesman for the Taizhou city government was quoted as saying.

I hope nothing bad will happen to President Hu
Beijing resident
"Farmers have been told not to sell or eat the birds," he said.

Another local official expressed doubts about the reported number of deaths or that the birds died from bird flu.

"Maybe they all ate some poisonous food. Let's wait and see the results of the tests," said the official, who gave his surname as Gao.

Bramblings are members of the finch family with an orange breast and shoulder patch, a white rump and a black tail.

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