China is likely to experience earthquakes measuring 7 or higher on the Richter scale over the next 15 years, a national newspaper said on Tuesday, citing Chinese experts.

The devastating earthquake that hit the Sichuan province in the country's southwest on May 12 with a magnitude of 8.0 was the country's worst in more than three decades, and has claimed the lives of at least 69,000 people.

China Daily quoted Teng Jiwen, a geophysicist and member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, as saying China is located on two major seismically active belts, and that the likelihood of powerful quakes in the region will remain high for at least 15 years.

The scientist said China urgently needs to establish an early warning system to tackle natural disasters.

Chinese authorities expect the final death toll from the recent earthquake to exceed 80,000.

According to official data, 373,500 people had been injured in the disaster, and 18,600 are listed as missing. Over 45.5 million have been affected by the earthquake, with 1.5 million evacuated from the disaster zone.