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Sichuan strives to rule out misappropriation of relief goods
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The white tents stand in a clearing amidst the jungle of quake-shattered buildings in the Shigu Township of Deyang's Shifang City, Sichuan Province.

The 46,000-population township had lost 65 lives by May 22, with another 397 injured during the May 12 earthquake centered in Sichuan. More than 95 percent of the town's buildings either collapsed or had been severely damaged.

Equipped with warming blankets, kitchenware and storm lanterns inside, the 250 tents posed a sharp contrast against the surrounding rubble.

"All these were set up almost overnight. If you blink an eye, then there is a new tent up," said Peter Vanden Broeck, head of the Belgium First Aid Service Team. "They are appearing like growing mushrooms."

In total, the Belgian team brought four movable hospital room units, 2,000 woolen covers and 900 tents for quake-ravaged Shigu, about 60 kilometers from Sichuan's provincial capital Chengdu.

These were but a small portion of the quake relief goods Sichuan had received over the past two weeks. So far, deadly quake had claimed more than 60,000 lives.

"By Sunday night, Sichuan has received quake relief goods from 25 overseas countries and regions, including tents, quilts, food, water processors, drinking water, medicine and medical equipment," said Du Xiaoyan, vice director with the Sichuan Province civil affairs department.

Tents alone from overseas donors had exceeded 37,000 as of Saturday afternoon, he added.

To rule out misappropriation, the Sichuan government has set up a special department at the Shuangliu Airport in Chengdu where all relief goods from overseas are initially gathered, to handle reception of the donations.

All overseas donated relief goods were fast-tracked for checks by the local customs, drug safety departments, inspection and quarantine authorities then dispatched by the civil affairs department to the quake-hit areas.

Medicine, however, is required to submit to local drug safety departments for inspection, according to Du Xiaoyan. Blood products also have to be examined by local inspection and quarantine authorities before being dispatched to the quake zones.

For relief goods that are not required to be sent to specific townships or cities, the civil affairs department will dispatch them to the six worst-hit cities and prefectures and 21 worst-hit counties.

A reception note issued by township-level authorities in the quake zones was required when the relief goods reached its destination, and local discipline inspection commissions had sent out work teams to quake-hit counties to supervise the distribution process, Du said.

"The goal is to ensure relief goods reach every quake-hit township. Once the goods reach the townships, the distribution is under supervision of the public."

Du Xiaoyan said civil affairs departments have also asked quake-hit townships to report their most-needed goods to relevant state administrations so that their needs could be identified by overseas donors.

"For the time being, tents, rice, oil and other necessities are still in need."

(Xinhua News Agency May 27, 2008)

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