China launches massive reconstruction drive

China, facing emergencies ranging from swollen lakes to rehousing millions after last month’s devastating earthquake, is looking to the future, planning a huge reconstruction of schools, homes and hospitals reduced to rubble.

The May 12 quake centred in south-west China’s Sichuan province killed 69 122 people, with 17 991 more missing and likely dead, according to the latest official figures.

More than 15-million residents have been displaced and tent cities have been going up across the ravaged region as the usually sweltering summer settles in, making life far from comfortable and raising fears of epidemics.

Only 25% of damaged shops have managed to reopen more than three weeks after the disaster, the Commerce Ministry said. The government has said reconstruction would take up to three years.

The State Council, or Cabinet, looked to the future, passing draft regulations on reconstruction, outlining requirements for resettlement sites and safety standards of public buildings like schools and hospitals.

In one of the most poignant dramas unfolding after the disaster, tension has flared between local officials and parents whose children were killed in a disproportionate number of school collapses.

Premier Wen Jiabao hosted Wednesday’s meeting after the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Construction stressed in a circular that infrastructure restoration was a priority.

”Local governments must organise personnel to conduct safety appraisals of all school buildings as soon as possible to ensure the safety of students as they return to school,” Xinhua news agency said, quoting the circular.

More than 9 000 children and teachers died under school buildings, according to figures compiled by Reuters. — Reuters

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Lindsay Beck
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