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Quake Relief and Post-disaster Reconstruction in China
After three months from the May 12 earthquake, the death toll in Sichuan Province and its neighboring regions increased to 69,222 as of Aug. 7, the State Council Information Office said in a statement. The number of people listed as missing and injured reached 18,176 and 374,638 respectively. By the same time, a total of 1.48 million quake-affected people has been relocated, while among them 96,525 hospitalized for injury, 91,923 discharged already.

The government spending on disaster relief and reconstruction topped 64.39 billion yuan (RMB) (about 9.39 billion US dollars), including 57.41 billion yuan (RMB) from the national budget and 6.976 billion yuan (RMB) from the local budget. According to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, domestic and foreign donations has reached 59.26 billion yuan (RMB) in cash and goods by Aug. 4, among which 23.81 billion yuan (RMB) had been forwarded to quake-hit areas. About 1.58 million tents, 4.87 million quilts, 14.1 million garments, 2.73 million tonnes of fuel and 5.83 million tonnes of coal were sent to the quake-hit areas, as well as a total of 321,982 tonnes of grain and 9,401 tonnes of edible oil were allocated to the quake zones from national reserves by the early August.

The disaster relief headquarter was established immediately after the quake, which comprises eight departments responsible for helping with rescue work, medical care, security, information and other tasks. Under the leadership of the State Council Rescue and Relief Headquarter, a National Committee of Experts for the Wenchuan Earthquake was established on May 21. This committee is requested to provide scientific-based support to the earthquake affected areas, with focus on disaster assessment and scientific studies for reconstruction. The Committee consists of 30 experts from the Chinese Earthquake Administration, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Land and Resources, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Chinese Academy of Engineering, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Water Resources, the Ministry of Environmental Protection, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development (MHURD) and the Chinese Meteorological Administration.

QIU Baoxing, the Vice Minister of the MHURD presided over a meeting of the Science and Technology Committee of the MHURD on May 22, stressing that the research on post-disaster planning and reconstruction should be carried out immediately. Based on the post-disaster reconstruction experience of Tangshan and Lijiang, as well as the actual situation of quake-hit areas of Wenchuan, commissioners put forward their opinions on the site chosen, urban and town layout, disaster prevention standards, disaster refuge zones, etc. Mr. QIU advanced ten requirements at the end of the meeting. Firstly, disaster rescue and relief need immediate and passionate reaction, while the post-disaster reconstruction needs scientific, rational and careful organization. Secondly, urban and rural planners should participate in the post-disaster reconstruction as soon as possible, and carry out comprehensive study on the earthquake, construction, ecology, water supply and drainage systems, etc. Thirdly, the planning for temporary residential areas should be carried out as soon as possible. Fourthly, the urban system planning of West Sichuan should be studied again. Fifthly, the reconstruction plan for cities at prefecture level should be compiled quickly. Sixthly, the communication center should be established to link different aspects of the post-disaster reconstruction. Seventhly, specific studies on urban and rural reconstruction after the quake should be carried on. Eighthly, the way to recycle and reuse the destroyed buildings and wastelands should be studied out. Ninthly, the quake-resistant and energy-saving standards should be completed quickly, while the design and reconstruction of school buildings in quake-stricken areas must abide by stricter compulsory standards. Tenthly, the transitional residential houses should be designed and constructed to ensure the validity of five to ten years.

China’s State Council published guidelines on post-quake reconstruction on Jul. 4, emphasizing the restoration of hydropower facilities, the reconstruction and repair of reservoirs, dams, rural water supply systems, irrigation, hydrology and water resources. Areas suitable for living must be marked off based on scientific standards and evaluations on geology and natural resources. The reconstruction of buildings should take local advice into account, and be based on governmental subsidies, social support and local resources. Resources should be optimized to upgrade quake resistance standards and improve the quality of construction. The guidelines also underscores the importance of protecting the ethnic and cultural relics affected by the major quake. Earthquake sites and memorial halls would be erected, while the reconstruction of government buildings is required to be “frugal” and “practical.” Priority should be given to the work of house repair and construction, as well as the reconstruction of public facilities, including schools and hospitals, and these buildings should be the “safest, most solid and trustworthy”. “Check for repairable buildings and fix them as soon as possible; scientifically choose sites, economically use land and set reasonable quake-resistant levels for new houses,” the guidelines says. It was known that just before the opening of Beijing Olympic Games, relief workers had built 612,400 temporary houses and another 6,700 were being installed, with 39,500 to be built. All the measures aimed to let quake-hit people live in “safe and comfortable houses as soon as possible”.

Shortly after the quake, the Urban Planning Society of China posted six suggestions on May 14, to all the members of the Society and urban planners in China, calling on planners to provide relevant technical support and useful experience and information to help people in quake-hit areas to move through the disaster, and give attention to the public safety as well as human settlement construction of rural areas. Getting worldwide response immediately, a series of conferences were held by the Society later, from which a lot of important technical information for the resettlement and reconstruction were put forward. During these conferences, it was stressed that in the fourth phase of disaster-relief operation (which are rescue, relief, resettlement and reconstruction successively), planning should exert the key function in the reconstruction process, and planners should take their own responsibilities to help people in quake-hit areas.

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