Relief teams were working around the clock to set up temporary housing and provide food and medical care to the displaced.
|In depth: China quake|
Pictures: Quake devastation
Ban said: “The Chinese government, at the early stage of this natural disaster, has invested strenuous effort and demonstrated extraordinary leadership.”
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”.
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.