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Thunderstorms may add to woes of China's quake survivors

by Staff Writers
Beichuan, China (AFP) May 27, 2008
Survivors of China's earthquake huddled inside tents near their devastated homes Tuesday as they awaited a predicted thunderstorm, wondering how they would cope.

In Renjiaping, a village near the quake's epicentre in southwest China's Sichuan province, people made homeless by the disaster said their biggest concern now was rains predicted to deluge the area in the days to come.

Wang Sufeng, a 33-year-old woman of the Qiang ethnic minority, that is concentrated in Beichuan county, said the tent her family had been allocated by the army was flimsy and she was worried it would leak.

"We have a dozen of us, three generations squeezed into it," she said, gesturing to the light blue tent erected on land outside the collapsed family home.

"We have had a lot of help with food and water, and the tent of course, but I think it will ooze water because it is not very good quality," she said.

On the hillside behind Wang's home, members of her extended family were busily digging channels around their more sturdy tents.

In the neighbouring province of Guizhou, the rains have already killed nine people and left 11 missing after devastating flash floods on Monday, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The Guizhou flood destroyed 58 houses, two bridges, a highway and power poles, causing blackouts in eight townships, Xinhua said.

Wang Sumu, 42, said the cleared plot where their dozen or so tents had been erected would turn to thick sucking mud once the rains started.

"The tents are hot like ovens inside because they are in the direct sunlight," he said. "When it rains, they will be even more unbearable."

Officials also worry about the rains, not least because they could heighten the risk that the quake-created Tangjiashan lake might overflow, inundating surrounding areas.

Wang lost his 15-year-old son when the Beichuan Middle School collapsed in the earthquake.

The tragedy left more than 1,300 of the school's 2,900 teachers and students dead or missing, Xinhua news agency said, and has spurred the authorities to launch an investigation into school building practices.

Sitting in the lee of a mountain scarred by landslides, Wang said he had taken two days to get back from a construction job in Xining city and had to take a cash advance from his boss to buy a bus ticket.

"I don't think I will be going back (to the Xining job)," he said.

"I was earning money for my son, to give him a better life, and now he is gone. Besides that I should stay here to help rebuild the family home."

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International aid reaches one million people in Myanmar: UN
Geneva (AFP) May 27, 2008
Just over a million people hit by the cyclone in Myanmar have received some form of international aid, a United Nations aid agency spokeswoman said Tuesday, adding that "we are on the right track".

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