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Wooden homes prove lifesavers for thousand of Tibetans
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Suoyingei usually loves to perform Tibetan dances, but since last week's earthquake, the teenager said she has just not been in the mood.

The 19-year-old from the Baima Tibetan autonomous township of Sichuan, whose home is now a tent in Pingwu, said although her spirits are low she feels lucky to be alive.

More than 4,000 Tibetans from Baima were evacuated to Pingwu after the quake and are now living in a tented community in two public squares. Soldiers helped erect the large tents, each of which houses up to seven families.

Despite losing their homes, the Tibetan people escaped the quake relatively unscathed.

"There haven't been any casualties among the 30,000 Tibetans who live in our six autonomous townships," Chen Xianhui, head of the Pingwu earthquake relief work headquarters, told China Daily.

"Several dozen people were wounded, but none seriously."

In Pingwu, where 180,000 people live, more than 5,000 died in the quake, he said.

The county is 300 km from Wenchuan, the earthquake's epicenter.

The lack of injuries among the Tibetans is thanks mostly to their wooden homes.

Not only are the two-story dwellings expertly constructed - the vast majority are still standing - but also, those that did collapse caused far less damage than would have been caused by a similar sized concrete property.

Most of the 5,000 Tibetans living in tents in Pingwu - about 1,000 come from towns other than Baima - are women and children, as the men are helping with the relief effort.

The main concern in the community is disease prevention, as the weather has fluctuated between 30 C sunshine and heavy rain. In response, government workers spray disinfectant every day.

Basic food rations are provided, but many of the temporary residents prefer to shop at the nearby stores.

"The prices have become stable," Suoyingmei said.

Lanying, a 46-year-old woman said she caught a cold because of the rain.

"Life is hard," she said.

"We've had a lot of help from the government and we know it's impossible to satisfy everyone's needs during this awful disaster."

She said she hopes things will improve when more roads reopen and more relief supplies are brought in.

Damaged roads are also the reason Lanying and Suoyingmei will be staying in Pingwu for a little longer yet. The only road back to Baima was badly hit in the quake and is currently under repair.

(Xinhua News Agency May 24, 2008)

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