Image: Damage in Beichuan County
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Most of Beichuan County, including the main city seen here on Nov. 29, was destroyed in the earthquake last May.
updated 12/11/2008 1:59:14 PM ET 2008-12-11T18:59:14

China has picked a site where it will completely rebuild a county that was devastated by a deadly earthquake in May, a state news agency said Thursday.

Beichuan county in southwestern Sichuan province was so shattered by the 7.9 magnitude temblor that the government decided it had to be abandoned. Beichuan town, the county seat, saw half its 26,000 residents killed and 70 percent of its buildings destroyed.

The new county seat will be moved to an area 22 miles away, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

The State Council, China's cabinet, approved the location of the new county seat east of Anchang township, and construction is scheduled to begin in February, it said.

About 77 percent of Beichuan county's 220,000 displaced residents will be able to live in the Anchang River valley or in the foothills, Xinhua said.

The first phase of work would include roads, government offices, public welfare facilities and housing, it said. The project is estimated to cost nearly 20 billion yuan (about $3 billion).

The May 12 earthquake centered in Sichuan province killed 69,227 people and left 17,923 missing and presumed dead.

Government leaders have said the site of the original Beichuan county will become a national monument to victims and an earthquake museum.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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