Thu, September 04, 2008
China > Mainland

Race against winter in quake zone

2008-09-04 02:56:55 GMT2008-09-04 10:56:55 (Beijing Time) China Daily

The country is racing against time to rebuild homes and set up temporary shelters for many of the 1.2 million people displaced by the Panzhihua earthquake.

A senior civil affairs official Wednesday said reconstruction could begin only in the middle of this month, giving little time before winter sets in.

Pang Chenmin, deputy director of the Ministry of Civil Affairs' disaster relief department, said: "We face a tight schedule to beat the winter cold."

The 6.1-magnitude quake rocked the mountainous Sichuan-Yunnan border region on August 30, killing 38 people and injuring 982. The epicenter of the quake was near Panzhihua city, about 550 km south of the May 12 Wenchuan quake's epicenter.

The area is mountainous, making transport a time-consuming affair. Hence, reaching construction material there poses a challenge, too.

But the quake-hit Sichuan-Yunnan border area is not short of food or clothes, Pang told a press conference, organized by the State Council Information Office. Instead, providing proper shelter before winter is "the problem".

About 532,000 houses, made mostly of wood and mud, were destroyed or damaged in the quake, leaving about 1.2 million people in urgent need of shelter, the ministry said.

The central and local governments have sent more than 42,000 tents and 33,000 quilts to the area. But, Pang conceded, they were not enough for winter.

"People there are facing two big problems: a proper shelter and enough quilts." He said the government was "making efforts" to help every family in the area build a permanent house.

Governments at all levels have announced preferential land policies and financial support, and people have offered donations to help them do so.

Pang advised some people to shift to relatives' houses elsewhere if they can. Those who cannot shift have to stay in community public houses.

And "in areas where rebuilding permanent houses immediately is difficult, people will have to spend the winter in cotton-padded tents, provided by the governments".

Premier Wen Jiabao has warned of a difficult winter for people in the quake-hit areas. On his fourth inspection tour of Dujiangyan and Qingchuan, which were hit by the devastating May 12 quake, Wen urged the entire society to donate winter clothes and bedding for the quake victims.

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