Premier Wen Jiabao has urged local officials to redouble efforts in caring
for victims of Tropical Storm Bilis, state media reported Sunday.
Premier Wen Jiabao on Saturday inspected the rural communities and other
areas most heavily ravaged by the storm - a swath of Hunan province in which 346
of Bilis' 530 fatalities occurred as the storm rolled over southern China a week
"The top task before us is to arrange for the lives of people affected,
ensuring they have adequate food, clothing, shelters, clean water and medical
care," the Xinhua News Agency quoted Wen as telling local officials. He called
the rebuilding of homes and factories a priority.
While Chinese leaders routinely tour disaster areas to show the government's
concern for victims, Wen's presence in Hunan followed reports that officials
there tried to cover up Bilis' devastation. The province initially reported 92
deaths, but reported a higher toll after state television discovered and
reported that 197 people had been killed in part of Hunan.
Wen promised new homes and other government assistance to farmers in the
worst-affected village, Kuncun, where 56 people died, five are missing and 800
are homeless, Xinhua said.
"You have been hit by a once-in-a-century disaster and suffered a lot," Wen
was quoted as saying. "The government will help you build new homes, which will
Local officials have frequently tried to cover up man-made and natural
disasters, fearing both Beijing's and the public's disapproval. Last November,
officials concealed the extent of a chemical spill in the Songhua River that
forced the shutdown of water supplies to millions of people.
Bilis wreaked surprising havoc.
Initially a typhoon, it weakened as it hit China's coast on July 14 and was
downgraded to a tropical storm. The storm dumped large amounts of rain across
six provinces, touching off flash floods and landslides, sweeping away thousands
of houses and causing 3 million people to flee their homes.
With China only halfway through the typhoon and flood season, Wen ordered
officials to be prepared. He called for timely and accurate weather forecasts,
preparations against landslides and the shoring up of banks of reservoirs and
rivers, Xinhua reported.