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Housing shortage, nuclear materials among latest quake concerns

Tents to house the displaced are running out, and some foreign medical teams have been turned away.

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China said it was struggling to find shelter for many of the 5 million people whose homes were destroyed in last week's earthquake, while the confirmed death toll rose Tuesday to more than 40,000.

The government was setting up temporary housing for quake victims unable to find shelter with relatives, but a shortage of tents has left officials scrambling.

As relief efforts shift from rescue to caring for survivors, organization has become a barrier. China had said it would accept foreign medical teams, but logistical challenges have caused officials to deny some teams' offers to help.

Nuclear concerns

State news agency Xinhua reported that the earthquake buried 32 sources of radiation. The Chinese government had previously said all nuclear facilities affected by the May 12 earthquake were safe and under control, but did not give any details about which sites were affected or whether any were damaged.

Though Sichuan has no commercial nuclear power plants, the province has extensive military and nuclear weapons research facilities. The headquarters for China's nuclear weapons design facility is in Mianyang, and a plutonium processing facility is in Guangyuan, both cities damaged by the quake.

China's military has sent soldiers to protect nuclear sites, and the country's nuclear safety agency notified staff to be prepared in case of an environmental emergency.

An official at a French nuclear watchdog who has seen reports from the Chinese nuclear safety agency said materials found in the rubble appeared to come from hospitals, factories, or laboratories, and were not used for making nuclear fuel or weapons. The radioactive materials likely don't present a major risk to health or groundwater because most of was probably metal equipment, not fuel or something more easily dispersed, the official said.

Compiled from wire service reports

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