YINGXIU, China China's earthquake death toll jumped to more than 60,000, and Premier Wen Jiabao said it could rise to more than 80,000 as he and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited the disaster area Saturday.
Wen's estimate was a sharp increase in the number of expected deaths from the disaster almost two weeks ago, and could signal that the government is giving up hope of finding most of the roughly 30,000 it had listed as missing.
"The fatalities are over 60,000," Wen told reporters in this badly damaged town near the epicenter of the disaster. "It may further climb to a level of 70,000, 80,000 or more."
The announcement came as experts searched for 15 radiation sources buried in the rubble and survivors moved out of possible danger areas downstream from rivers dammed by landslides.
In Beijing, a spokesman for the State Council, the Cabinet, told reporters Saturday that the confirmed death toll from the quake was 60,560, and that 26,221 people are missing.
Ban promised that the world body would help with reconstruction and was waiting for China's assessment of what it needed.
"If we work hard, we can overcome this," Ban said, with Wen standing at his side. "The whole world stands behind you and supports you."
A Chinese military officer took Ban on a tour of Yingxiu, which is about 40 miles southeast of the quake's epicenter.
Some 4,800 of the town's 18,000 people were killed and another 4,000 are still missing, the officer told Ban. Most of the buildings in the town collapsed, and those still standing were badly damaged. Reporters could see government workers in hooded white protective suits spraying disinfectant on the rubble.
With their waters pooling, the blocked rivers could breach the earthen barriers, a danger that would grow with coming rains or aftershocks.
Relief workers were grappling with getting tents, food and medical care to the displaced. Wen said the government needs 900,000 tents, and it is urging Chinese manufacturers to make 30,000 a day.
The Environmental Protection Ministry said experts from its National Nuclear Safety Administration were trying to contain 15 unspecified "sources" of radiation.
Some 50 potential radiation sources were buried by the quake, Environment Vice Minister Wu Xiaoqing said Friday in Beijing. While 35 have been secured, 15 remained buried under buildings and houses and, though located, were inaccessible, he said.
Wu said the radiation was not leaking. But the number of unsecured sources was far higher than the two the agency reported earlier this week. China has said all nuclear facilities are safe an assurance Wu repeated and foreign experts have said the unsecured radiation material was likely used by hospitals and factories, or for research.
The search for radiation material and the evacuation of flood-threatened communities showed how precarious the situation remained nearly two weeks after the quake.
Even as it battled to bring relief to the devastated areas, the government was shifting focus to long-term reconstruction and away from the search for survivors and bodies among the wreckage.
"Previously our main priority was the search and rescue of affected people," Wen said. "Our priority now is to resettle the affected people, and to make plans for the post-quake reconstruction."
The quake destroyed more than 15 million homes, according to Wen. He said the government has begun an urgent effort to construct temporary housing, complete with schools and trash collection.
Some 10,000 medical workers have been dispatched to prevent outbreaks of disease, Wen said.
"The second major challenge facing us is epidemic prevention and control," the premier said.