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Page last updated at 15:22 GMT, Friday, 6 June 2008 16:22 UK

Baby hope for earthquake parents

Photos of children killed when their school collapsed in the quake, pictured in Wufuon 23 May 2008
An estimated 7,000 only children died in the quake

China is sending medics to offer reverse sterilisation operations to parents who lost their only children in last month's quake, state media says.

The family planning authorities say the team will provide counselling, surgery and in-vitro fertilisation treatment.

Under China's one-child policy, parents who lose a child or have one with disabilities are allowed a second baby.

The authorities in Sichuan province estimate about 7,000 of those killed in the 12 May quake were only children.

Zhang Shikun, director of the science and technology bureau of the National Population and Family Planning Commission, said:

"The team, comprised of experts on child-bearing, will conduct surgery in the quake-hit areas to provide technological support for those wanting to give birth to another."

'Special assistance'

Parents of the estimated 16,000 only children injured in the tremor may also be included under the scheme, according to an official quoted by the state news agency.

Survivors amid the wreckage in Shifang County, Mianzhu, Sichuan province, 4 June 2008
Millions were left homeless by last month's earthquake

Li Bin of the Sichuan provincial Population and Family Planning Commission told a meeting on Friday:

"All families with their only child killed or disabled in the quake should be incorporated into the special assistance programme."

China's one-child policy - which limits urban couples to one child and rural couples to two - is estimated to have prevented 400m births since it was introduced in 1979.

The quake death toll inched upwards on Friday to 69,130 with another 17,824 people missing, the government said.

Rubble looter

Meanwhile, a judge in Shifang jailed a man on Friday for over seven years for looting buildings which collapsed in the quake.

The court heard that in the space of four days, the Mianzhu man stole cash, jewellery, cigarettes, mobile phones, digital cameras and a motorcycle.

Map

The judge - hearing the case in a tent because of local quake devastation - described his actions as vile, saying he had stolen from people who had already suffered great losses.

Elsewhere, efforts continued to ease a dangerously swollen quake lake at Tangjiashan.

Experts have warned the lake, formed by a landslide after last month's tremors, could burst at any time.

The authorities said they could begin draining some of the huge volume of water behind the dam of mud and rock on Friday, Xinhua reported.

By Friday morning, the water level had climbed to within just 50cm (20in) of the lowest point on a long sluice channel that Chinese soldiers dug last week, it said.

Plans are in place to quickly evacuate an estimated 1.3m people who live in the surrounding area if the lake on the River Jian just above the town of Beichuan bursts.

More than 250,000 people downstream have already been moved to higher ground.




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