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Financial aid cuts Shifang rebuild time by 17 years
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Financial support from Beijing will help rebuild the quake-hit city of Shifang, Sichuan province, within three years, rather than 20, as initially forecast, a local official said yesterday.

Duan Keqing, a spokesperson for the Shifang development and reform commission told China Daily that Beijing has pledged 3.89 billion yuan ($570 million) in aid from now until next June.

"We forecast it would take 20 years to rebuild our hometown, but with Beijing's help, we can do it in three," he said.

Following the May 12 quake, the nation's prosperous cities and regions were urged to form one-to-one partnerships with affected towns and cities. Beijing was twinned with Shifang.

Last week, authorities in the capital said they will provide whatever aid is needed. Priority is being given to projects that affect people's livelihoods, public services and infrastructure, Duan said.

The reconstruction of a trunk road linking Shifang to Guanghan is one of the key projects. Work on the 1.61 billion yuan scheme began on June 23 and is scheduled to be completed next year, he said.

About 1.2 billion yuan will be spent on public services, including 12 schools, six hospitals and clinics, and four centers for the disabled, the elderly and orphans, he said.

A further 229 million yuan will be spent on rebuilding houses, roads and water infrastructure in Hongbai, Yinghua and Luoshui, three of the city's worst-hit towns, he said.

The Sichuan quake led to the deaths of 5,924 people in Shifang, where 330,000 were injured and 202 are still missing. The estimated cost of the damage is 8.22 billion yuan.

(China Daily July 24, 2008)

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