However, stories of survival from the original earthquake continue to emerge.
 
One person was pulled alive from a pile of rubble on Saturday, about 266 hours after the main earthquake struck.

The prime minister said the government needs 900,000 tents for the survivors and has urged Chinese manufacturers to make 30,000 a day.

Relief teams were working around the clock to set up temporary housing and provide food and medical care to the displaced.
 
'Strenuous effort'
 
The UN secretary-general, arriving from neighbouring Myanmar, praised China's response to the earthquake.
 
In depth: China quake


Map: Quake disaster zone

Pictures: Quake devastation

China's fast response

Video: Push for normality after China quake

Video: Grief turns to anger

Video: Soldier tells of devastation

Ban said: "The Chinese government, at the early stage of this natural disaster, has invested strenuous effort and demonstrated extraordinary leadership."
 
Unlike Myanmar, China quickly accepted international rescue teams and doctors, although it faced some criticism for waiting several days to make its decision. 
 
China has been eager to ease tensions with other countries ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games after global protests against its crackdown in Tibet disrupted almost every leg of the Olympic torch's world tour.
 
In a boost for the relief effort, China announced on Saturday that the main railway connecting Sichuan province's capital Chengdu with the central city of Baoji had re-opened after being closed for a week and a half.
 
Beijing has predicted it will take three years to rebuild devastated towns and villages across Sichuan.
 
Wrecking machines have started to demolish the few buildings left standing in Beichuan in northern Sichuan.
 
Officials say they plan to rebuild Beichuan's county seat in a new area, but no decision has been made on the location, Hou Xiongfei, a provincial official, said on Thursday.
 
Al Jazeera's Melissa Chan, reporting from Mianyang, says the authorities are moving to return some normality to the lives of survivors, with schools in makeshift tents already in session.
 
Ghost towns 


The streets of Beichuan, one of the hardest-hit towns in the province, were nearly deserted after military convoys, emergency workers, residents and volunteers finally left the town.

 

The government has appealed for more tents
to house millions of survivors [EPA]
Health experts say corpses pose little direct threat of communicable diseases or contamination.

 

"There are no more signs of life," Li Zichuan, a soldier, said as he watched excavators demolishing what was left of the Beichuan Middle School.

 

"During the recovery operation we dug many bodies up here, so now all that is left is to disinfect the place and then demolish it."

 

Housing an estimated five million displaced persons has also been extremely difficult with the government making repeated international appeals for tents.

 

Hu Jintao, the Chinese president, was shown on state television urging workers in two tent-manufacturing companies to boost production.

 

He has also vowed to continue the rescue effort "to the last village".

 

Damaged dams

 

China's water ministry meanwhile said that 69 dams were in danger of bursting in the wake of the May 12 quake.


The damage across the region is so great, that it may take months to assess the full extent of the devastation.

 

In towns such as Cifeng, just 40km from the quake’s epicentre, almost every home has been destroyed.