HONG KONG--Chinese officials have denied rumors flying around the provincial capital of Sichuan that the region will be hit by another major earthquake following a series of aftershocks in the wake of the May 12 tremor.
"Such rumors are groundless," Sichuan Provincial Seismological Bureau deputy director Deng Changwen said in a statement carried by official media.
"The bureau has not found signs of another massive quake according to the monitoring results, nor has it issued such a forecast," Deng said.
The rumors have brought further disruption to Chengdu, still struggling to get back to normal life in the wake of the 7.9 magnitude earthquake which has killed more than 60,000 people.
"Local television was reporting a rumor that Chengdu will have another strong earthquake on Thursday," one Chengdu resident said. "But the earthquake bureau did not issue such a warning."
Some people have responded to the fears of another tremor by remaining out of doors, while others have returned to their apartment buildings already.
Afraid to enter buildings
"Certainly I am worried," Huang Xingrong, an employee at the Chengdu Experimental School, said, adding that she would move back into her apartment only after government lifted the tremor alert entirely.
"We have taken precautions by moving away from high buildings. We plan to move back after the authorities lift the earthquake alert," Huang said.
But others were less impressed.
"Such rumors are baseless. I don't believe it," a second Chengdu man, He Jie, said. He added that he had continued to stay in his apartment since the initial tremor on May 12.
Meanwhile, new allegations of possible official corruption surrounding relief funding and assistance surfaced in Fengxiang county, where residents accused the local government of inflated their estimates of economic losses from the quake.
Local media said a team from the ruling Communist Party's Commission for Discipline Inspection had traveled to Fengxiang to investigate the claims.
Fengxiang county government reported 474 homeless families, 13,700 houses made unsafe by earthquake damage, and 15,500 houses collapsed in the area, resulting in total direct economic losses of more than 200 million yuan.
"We have publicized the losses on our Web site...They were not that great," a disaster relief official at the Fengxiang county government said. He confirmed the figure of 210 million yuan in direct economic losses, however "That's right," he said.
"The earthquake did cause some damage. We blew up the water tower because it poses a safety hazard to people," the official added, asked why the government had destroyed its own property.
But Fengxiang-based lawyer Yang Bo said the county was only slightly affected by the quake. "The county government reported a loss of 200 million yuan. This is exaggerated," Yang said.
"Some people informed Beijing about the untruthful report. The Central Disciplinary Committee has sent people over here to investigate. I don’t think they will find much damage here."
The death toll from the quake had risen to 68,109 on Wednesday, according to official statistics. A further 364,552 people are injured, with 19,851 others still listed as missing.
More than 8,900 aftershocks have followed the initial quake, with the strongest measuring 6.4 on the Richter scale.
Original reporting in Mandarin by Yan Xiu. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated by Jia Yuan. Written and produced by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.