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China says to finish quake reconstruction ahead of time

by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) May 8, 2009
China promised Friday to step up the pace of reconstruction in quake-devastated Sichuan province and said it would complete the process a year ahead of schedule.

Mu Hong, a top planning official, said on the eve of the first anniversary of the 8.0-magnitude quake that more than 50 billion dollars had already been invested in projects in the region.

Mu said that under initial plans from September last year, "we decided it would take three years for all the recovery and reconstruction efforts to be completed."

"Now we have decided that we will accelerate the process so that it will be completed in two years, which means the finishing line is September 2010."

Mu is vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission which has planning control over the economy.

The massive May 12 quake in southwest China left nearly 87,000 people dead or missing and more than five million others homeless, and a large part of the reconstruction has been aimed at rebuilding homes, schools and hospitals.

Mu said that by the end of April 2009, around 360 billion yuan (53 billion dollars) had been invested in more than 21,000 projects in Sichuan as well as neighbouring Gansu and Shaanxi provinces.

The rebuilding of schools is particularly sensitive because 5,335 students died or remain missing, according to a first official tally that is lower than previous estimates.

Many classrooms collapsed while nearby structures stood firm, due to what critics said were shoddily constructed buildings.

Bereaved parents have demanded a report into why so many school buildings fell apart so easily, but Tang Kai, a top official at the ministry of housing and urban-rural development, said the government had not identified a cause.

"Up to now we haven't found that anybody caused or did anything to make the building vulnerable so that it collapsed and people died when the earthquake struck," he told reporters.

He said identifying the cause was a difficult process, and investigations had still to figure out if there were problems with the design, construction process, supervision or misuse of infrastructure.

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