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Stronger economy gives China more time for rescue
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In the two weeks since an 8.0-magnitude quake devastated southwest China's Sichuan Province, the central government has striven to ensure fast and efficient rescue and relief operations.

It also brought the country's strengthening economy and the government's shift to put people first under scrutiny.

"Some 110,000 People's Liberation Army troops and armed police have been mobilized," Premier Wen Jiabao said on Saturday during his second visit to the quake zone. "The search and rescue operation has been conducted in every village."

The government had earmarked tens of billions of yuan for relief work, Wen said. A 75-billion-yuan (10.7 billion U.S. dollars)reconstruction fund had been set up, and would be added to in the next two years.

The powerful quake has claimed at least 67,183 lives, with 20,790 still missing. It also left at least 5 million people homeless, razing many counties and townships at the epicenter to the ground.

A preliminary investigation showed that 14,207 industrial firms in Sichuan suffered losses of 67 billion yuan (9.7 billion U.S. dollars), while centrally administered state-owned enterprises (SOEs) reported losses of more than 30 billion yuan.

Many analysts and organizations said total losses could amount to billions of yuan. U.S.-based risk assessors AIR said China's quake losses could exceed 140 billion yuan, while analysts at Chinese Academy of Sciences put the figure at 150 billion yuan.

Wang Tongsan, an economist with Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said China's economic aggregate had increased exponentially since a powerful quake hit Tangshan, northern Hebei Province, more than 30 years ago.

The 7.8-magnitude Tangshan quake claimed more than 240,000 lives.

"The rapid development of China's economy since its opening-up, especially the double-digit growth in recent years, no doubt lays a solid foundation for government rescue and relief work this time," Wang said.

The government disaster relief fund had reached 16.63 billion yuan as of 2 p.m. on Monday, including 12.56 billion yuan from the central budget and 4.06 billion yuan from local budgets.

Entrepreneurs and the public also demonstrated their generosity in the wake of the disaster.

Zhang Xiangqing, in his late 30s, and his wife, Zhang Ronghua, surprised many Chinese by donating 100 million yuan for quake relief and reconstruction work.

The couple, who founded and own the Tianjin Rockcheck Steel Group Co., Ltd., said they would like to help people in quake zones to rebuild their homes and "earthquake-proof schools".

Theirs is typical of the unprecedented philanthropy of ordinary Chinese.

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