$1.25b slated for disaster relief

By Xin Dingding (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-02-15 06:48

The government will spend about 9 billion yuan ($1.25 billion) on helping people in snow-hit areas get through their current difficulties and begin rebuilding.

As of Tuesday, the worst winter weather for half a century has killed at least 107 people and caused direct economic loss estimated at 111 billion yuan.

Governments at all levels are currently making efforts to help the poor, rebuild wrecked houses, restore farms and ensure food supplies in affected areas, senior officials said at a press conference yesterday in Beijing.

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The central finance has allocated 2.7 billion yuan to local governments and central government departments toward disaster relief.

It has also dispatched 6.3 billion yuan to help local governments ease capital shortages due to the disaster.

"As the situation develops, we will also increase the intensity of such help," Li Liguo, a deputy minister of civil affairs, said.

"Agricultural production has also been severely affected by the snowstorms and we are faced with the arduous task of restoring production," Zhang Yuxiang, director of market and economic information at the Ministry of Agriculture, said.

She said at least 69 million livestock froze to death, and more than 30 percent of vegetables planted last winter have been destroyed.

"On the whole, the snowstorms will have some impact on China's food prices, but it will not be dramatic," Assistant Commerce Minister Huang Hai said.

"Generally speaking, there is no problem with supply now. Prices have dropped from the early days of the disaster but, due to transport problems in remote areas, prices of some goods are still high," he said.

At present, the price of grain is stable and the price of vegetables has fallen. Only the prices of cooking oil and meat are likely to see moderate rises partly because of the snowstorm, he said.

As for exports, the weather had no major impact apart from trade in some agricultural products and delayed shipments, he said.

The Ministry of Agriculture has allocated 140 million yuan and taken other measures to help farmers get back on their feet.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs has also begun work to make sure wrecked houses can be rebuilt before the end of June.

The Ministry of Health has sent 180,000 medical workers to the snow-hit areas to counsel and treat victims, and prevent diseases.

So far, there has been no outbreak of major infectious diseases, food poisoning incidents or other public health emergencies in the stricken areas.

The disaster has also sparked concern around the world.

As of Tuesday, 84 foreign governments or top leaders, and eight international organizations and agencies had sent China messages of sympathy. Donations in cash and kind so far total 1.19 billion yuan.

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