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Public urged to give more to disaster victims
By Zhu Yuzi (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-08-10 00:09

The Red Cross Society of China Monday urged the public to give generously to help victims of natural disasters across the nation.

The society issued an appeal for donations after the Ministry of Civil Affairs revealed that July was the most disastrous month in China so far this year.

Twenty-five provinces and autonomous regions were hit by natural calamities in July, with Hunan, Hubei, Henan, Yunnan and Guangxi being the worst affected.

Around fifty million people have been affected by the calamities, with 194 fatalities, 63 missing and 20,000 others injured.

Over one million people have been forced to relocate, while 160,000 homes were demolished and 64,000 were damaged. Meanwhile, a total of 3.56 million hectares of crops were affected, including 0.6 million hectares being totally destroyed. And a loss of 15.81 billion yuan (US$1.9 billion) has been reported, accounting for more than half of the total losses caused by natural disasters in the first seven months of this year.

Flooding, landslides and mudslides were mostly to blame for the damage.

According to the Red Cross Society of China, by July 31, flooding alone had affected 78.6 million people, with 462 killed and 1.4 million people being forced to move; 5.3 million hectares of crops were affected.

Direct economic losses reached 22.9 billion yuan (US$1.6 billion).

The death toll from this year's flooding does not approach the scale of the disaster in 1998 when more than 4,000 people were killed by floods along the Yangtze River. But victims this year were generally harder to reach.

"Most of the victims this year are in mountain regions, and many areas are impoverished and areas where ethnic minorities are located," said Sun Aiming, vice-president of the Society at a news conference Monday. "They generally lack the ability to help themselves."

Some of the areas were even hit several times, which makes it harder to offer help, Sun said.

But the society has mobilized to offer aid to the stricken areas.

By August 2, the Society had provided aid to 14 provinces with 8.03 million yuan (US$0.97 million) worth of relief materials, including medicines, clothes and tents, when another 4.8 million yuan (US$0.6 million) was raised to buy rice and wheat for the victims.

Calling for more donations, Sun warned that the current level was "far from sufficient."

"We request more people to join us to help those victims," he said.

The government is also trying to ease the pain.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs has allocated 1.06 billion yuan (US$127.7 million) in relief funds to the disaster-stricken areas.

The ministry has also organized a flood drill in Dali County of Northwest China's Shannxi Province on August 7 to help local people to deal with flooding.

By practising evacuation from flooded areas, allocation of relief materials and the restoration of ravaged homes, the drilling is hoped to help people get better prepared.

Local government leaders are also being urged to pay more attention to the threat of flooding.

Three officials from Xiangfan in Hubei Province were recently removed from their positions due to their negligence of their duty in flood control.

On August 4, the heaviest rains in 24 years hit Xiangfan, flooding the city and destroying hundreds of homes.

Zheng Lijun, the general engineer of Xiangfan Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters, was scolded for not fulfilling his duties in the city's flood control work.

Zhu Yonghai and Luo Jiaoyou, the two officials both in charge of civil projects, were also removed from their posts for failing to keep the local drainage system in a good condition.

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