Fri, May 23, 2008 - Page 5 News List

China renews appeals for foreign aid

ROAD TO RECOVERYAs Beijing issued a call for tents, it also ordered the immediate construction of small homes to provide shelter for up to five years


China said yesterday it needed more than 3.3 million tents to house survivors of last week’s earthquake, appealing again to the international community for help.

Meanwhile, the Olympic torch relay resumed its run through China following a three-day national mourning period for quake victims.

The May 12 earthquake destroyed or damaged millions of homes, including more than 80 percent of the buildings in some remote towns and villages near the epicenter. In bigger cities, whole apartment blocks collapsed or are now too dangerous to live in because of damage and worries about aftershocks.

“We need more than 3.3 million tents,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang (秦剛) told reporters, adding that 400,000 tents had already been delivered.

“We hope and welcome international assistance in this regard. We hope the international community can give priority in providing tents,” he said.

Officials have said 5 million people were left homeless by the disaster.

State-run media, which conducted unusually probing reporting in the first days after the quake, have shifted to a more positive tone. Families in at least two towns where schools collapsed, killing their children, have protested or threatened to take local officials to court, suspecting shoddy construction.

In Beichuan, the smell of bleach was overpowering as rescue workers in white safety suits sprayed disinfectant in the area.

The confirmed death toll stood at 41,353, with another 32,666 people missing, according to the Cabinet. The number of children left orphaned was estimated at more than 4,000, local authorities said.

The government yesterday ordered the immediate construction of 1 million small homes to provide shelter for up to five years to people left homeless by the earthquake.

The housing ministry issued a directive ordering local authorities to build 1 million 20m² homes by Aug. 10.

The buildings should be made of light steel, plywood and other materials so that they are less dangerous in quakes and “recyclable” once more permanent housing is completed, said the circular quoted by the state Xinhua news agency. It said that the houses would be used for three to five years.

The ministry also ordered the construction of one primary school, one clinic and one store for every 1,000 temporary homes, Xinhua said.

Meanwhile the march toward the Beijing Olympics got back on track yesterday with a minute of silence, followed by the resumption of the torch relay after a three-day mourning period for thousands of earthquake victims.

The torch relay restarted on the dock of a container terminal in the eastern seaport city of Ningbo, then traveled through the city amid huge but orderly crowds of people, many waving the crimson national flag and decked out in Olympics T-shirts, hats and headbands.

Olympic organizers said they would delay the torch’s visit to Sichuan Province.

Crew members watched from the deck of the cargo ship MSC Rita, berthed beside the ceremony site. As the torch was lit, it sounded its horn, while members of the audience waved flags and quietly applauded. Strong breezes briefly extinguished the torch, but it was relit to quiet cheers from the crowd.

Flags, which were kept at half-staff during the mourning period, were flying at full-staff yesterday. Corporate sponsors such as Coca-Cola, Korean electronics company Samsung and Chinese computer maker Lenovo Corp were also back displaying their logos.

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