| GEO World|
| China: 5,335 students dead, missing in 2008 quake|
| Updated at: 1708 PST, Thursday, May 07, 2009|
BEIJING: A year after the massive Sichuan earthquake leveled hundreds of schools, sparking allegations of corruption and shoddy construction, China finally gave Thursday its first official tally of the numbers of students dead or missing: 5,335.
The government began its count hours after the magnitude-7.9 temblor razed huge portions of the southwestern province on May 12, 2008, but has refused until now to say how many students were among the nearly 90,000 people killed or missing. Another 5 million people were made homeless.
Thousands of classrooms collapsed while buildings around them remained intact. It has become a politically charged issue and an enduring source of bitterness for parents trying to find answers and closure.
Officials, however, blame the sheer power of the temblor as the main cause for the number of flattened schools and have said compiling and confirming the names of the students was a complicated process.
Tu Wentao, head of Sichuan's education department, announced the student death toll at a news conference in the provincial capital of Chengdu.