Asia Crisis

China county orders dog cull after quake

BEIJING, May 19 (Reuters) - A Chinese county has launched a drive to cull ownerless and hungry dogs threatening public health after the deadliest earthquake to hit the country in more than three decades, state media said on Monday.

The 7.9 magnitude tremor that rocked the southwestern province of Sichuan on May 12 had killed more than 34,000 people as of Monday. The government says it expects the toll to eventually rise to more than 50,000.

In Qingchuan county, where more than 2,670 people have died, authorities have ordered the "collective" culling of dogs to protect residents and guard against epidemics, the official Xinhua news agency said. "Most of the dogs in the county have not been fed by anyone and have been wandering around since the earthquake," Xinhua quoted local officials as saying.

"They are prone to scramble for food with humans ... and to bite people and spread diseases."

The dogs will be disinfected and buried deep in the soil, Xinhua said.

Health officials said no major outbreaks of infectious diseases had been reported in the quake area, but they've been on high alert against any epidemics with such huge human casualties and nearly 5 million displaced people. (Reporting by Guo Shipeng; Editing by Jeremy Laurence and Alex Richardson)