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Winter deadline for rebuild
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Authorities in Gansu, one of the provinces worst hit by last month's earthquake, will spare no effort to rebuild people's homes before the winter, its executive governor Feng Jianshen said yesterday.

The construction of schools with heating systems and the repair of more than 4,000 hospitals and clinics are also priorities, Feng told a press conference held by the State Council Information Office.

"Gansu can be very cold in winter," Feng said, adding the temperature can fall to as low as minus 20 C.

As of Saturday, 365 people had been confirmed dead in Gansu, with almost 5.3 million people and 11,000 villages affected. The total economic loss has been put at about 44 billion yuan ($6.4 billion).

Feng said the lives of many children were saved because schools in Gansu had already switched to their summer schedules, which means afternoon classes start at 3 pm.

"Students were on their way to school and most peasants were at work in the fields, when the quake hit," he said.

However, the relief and reconstruction work will still be extremely difficult, as the province is not wealthy, he said.

In the Gannan Tibetan autonomous prefecture, for example, the rural per capita annual net income was 1,711 yuan last year, compared with the national average of 4,100 yuan, Feng said.

"Financial support is the best form of assistance for Gansu, as most of the affected areas lie deep in the mountains and are inaccessible for heavy machinery and equipment," he said, adding that people will have to do much of the reconstruction work with their own hands.

More than 9,600 people injured in the quake have been treated at local hospitals, while some of those in critical conditions were transferred to hospitals in the provincial capital of Lanzhou, Feng said.

The province has received various donations totaling 5.3 billion yuan, as well as 100,000 tents.

A further 110,000 tents provided by the central government are en route, he said.

(China Daily June 17, 2008)

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