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Disaster by the numbers

By Lester Holt, NBC News Anchor

Lately, I've spent a great deal of time researching China in preparation for covering this summer's Olympics. While China's history and culture are fascinating, it is the numbers—a population of 1.3 billion people—that I find hard to wrap my mind around. China makes up twenty percent of the world's population, more than four times the population of the United States.

By extension, I find the casualty numbers from the May 12th earthquake equally tough to comprehend. Tonight we will be reporting on a strong aftershock that has rocked the Sichuan region, collapsing another 70,000 homes, and leaving 200,000 other structures at risk of destruction. Officially, the death toll from the original quake stands at 62,664, with 23,775 people still missing. Officially 5,000,000 people are homeless. There is nothing in our experience in this country that compares to the scope of devastation and suffering there, and so I suppose it is understandable that we look on with both sympathy and a sense of awe. Tonight our Beijing-based correspondent Mark Mullen continues his excellent reporting on the disaster, including word of yet another "miracle" rescue of a quake survivor.

We're of course following up yesterday's deadly and damaging round of tornadoes in Kansas and Oklahoma. CNBC's Sharon Epperson will lay out what the summer will look like in terms of gasoline prices. Lee Cowan is on top of the Democratic presidential race, including what Barack Obama told Wesleyan University grads at their commencement, and Hillary Clinton's latest response to the flap over her "Robert Kennedy" remarks.

A quick thanks to my colleague Amy Robach for sitting in for me last night while our family celebrated my youngest son's high school graduation. You know what that means; stay tuned for lots of stories in the coming months on "empty nest syndrome."

Thanks for checking in on the blog. I hope you can join us later for NBC Nightly news.