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China Struggles To Provide Shelter

Posted by iBlog on May 20, 2008

CHENGDU, China (AP) – China said it was struggling to find shelter for many of the 5 million people whose homes were destroyed in last week’s earthquake, while the region remained jittery Tuesday over warnings of aftershocks.

Meanwhile, rescuers pulled a 31-year-old man to safety, the second case of someone being found alive a week after the May 12 earthquake struck Sichuan province. Officials say the death toll is expected to surpass 50,000, and millions have been left homeless.

Ma Yuanjiang was saved from the debris of the Yingxiu Bay Hydropower Plant, where he worked as a director, after a 30-hour rescue effort, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Ma was able to speak and began to eat small amounts of food, colleague Wu Geng told the agency.

The confirmed death toll in Sichuan province alone rose to 39,577, Vice Governor Li Chengyun told a news conference.

Another 32,361 people remained missing across the quake zone, said the State Council, China’s Cabinet.

In the rescue effort so far, 6,375 survivors were dug out from quake debris, among some 360,159 people relocated to safer areas, the council said.

The government was setting up temporary housing for quake victims unable to find shelter with relatives, but there was a “desperate need for tents” to accommodate them, said Jiang Li, vice minister of civil affairs.

Five million people lost their homes in the quake, she said.

Nearly 280,000 tents have been shipped to the area and 700,000 more ordered, with factories working triple shifts to meet demand, Jiang said.

“Despite generous donations, the disaster is so great that victims still face a challenge in finding living accommodations,” she said.

China has said it would accept foreign medical teams as the relief efforts shifted from searching for survivors to caring for the injured and homeless. A growing number of countries responded by dispatching doctors to the quake area.

A Russian medical team with a mobile hospital arrived Tuesday in the Sichuan provincial capital of Chengdu, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said. A 37-member medical team sent by the Taiwan Red Cross organization also arrived in the disaster zone.

Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said a 23-member medical team would leave Tuesday for China.

Crews of doctors were also en route from Germany and Italy, Qin said.

Other countries and groups have also offered to send medical teams.

“But given the situation, and difficulties in the area, including transportation and telecommunications, it is not possible for us to accept all of the rescue and medical teams to engage in relief work,” he told a news conference.

Rescue workers resumed the search for bodies on the second day of a three-day national mourning period declared by the Chinese government, an unprecedented gesture to honor the dead.

Because of plans to bury bodies quickly, the government said DNA samples will be taken from corpses to help with later identification, Jiang said. Identified bodies will be cremated, although burial will be allowed where no cremation is possible.

During the mourning period, flags were flying at half-staff and entertainment events have been canceled. The Olympic torch relay has been suspended.

Such official mourning periods have previously only been ordered for late national leaders.

Thousands of quake survivors awoke Tuesday after spending a night sleeping in cars and in the open, frightened by government warnings of a potential strong aftershock. The alarm compounded uneasiness in the region, which has been shaken by dozens of aftershocks.

A panda from the famous Wolong Nature Preserve that had been missing since the quake returned safely, but two of the endangered animals were still missing, Xinhua reported. The others were “very likely to be alive,” forestry official Xiong Beirong told the agency.

“Both pandas were adults and they are more capable to escape from dangers than younger ones,” she said. “We hope the two missing pandas are as lucky as their peers.”

The quake killed five staff members at the reserve and destroyed or damaged all of its 32 panda houses. The local government has sent emergency supplies of bamboo, apples and veterinary medicine for the pandas, along with food and tents for staff.

Oil and gas operations in the quake zone are virtually back to normal, state-owned oil and gas giant CNPC said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, China’s banking regulators ordered banks to ensure adequate loans and other support for companies and individuals in the area.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. Active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.
05/20/08 06:04 EDT
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