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Most quake homeless in Sichuan move into makeshift homes
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More than three quarters of the homeless quake survivors in China's southwestern Sichuan Province have moved into temporary homes, the provincial governor said on Friday.

As of Thursday, 1.64 million prefabricated homes had been erected to house more than 3 million of the 4.5 million or more homeless families, said Jiang Jufeng at a teleconference on the quake homeless.

However, 536,100 families were still living in tents, 400,800 in temporary shelters built with tarpaulins and 207,600 with relatives, said the official.

The State Council quake relief headquarters required the quake zones to resettle all the homeless in makeshift homes by Aug. 20, but Sichuan was expected to finish the project eight days ahead of schedule, he said.

The devastating quake on May 12 has left 69,186 people dead as of Friday and 18,385 missing nationwide. In Sichuan alone, the death toll reached 68,636, and more than 10 million were homeless.

As rescue operation goes on, Sichuan has shift the focus of its relief work on resettlement and reconstruction.

"Ensuring all the homeless are safely accommodated before they have permanent residences is the first step," said the governor.

At a resettlement area in suburban Mianzhu, thousands of blue color-roofed prefabricated homes have been erected in orderly lines, making what the locals called "a mobile township".

Yang Guanghua, 40, a resident of Mianzhu City, one the worst-hit areas in the quake, said his family of three was lucky, not only because they all survived, but also because they had a home again.

A 16-square-meter room is the new home for the family. A wooden TV stand, a reading desk, a wardrobe with one door missing and two beds are all the furniture they have.

Their original 90-square meter apartment, about 5 kilometers away, was classified as too dangerous for habitation after the quake.

They lived in a tent for more than a month before moving into the temporary home on Tuesday.

"A family can never be what it means without a home," said Yang. "Our new home is a little small for us, but we are very happy to be here."

At the "mobile township", a prefab home houses an average of three people. Like the Yangs, each room has access to cable TV and gas. Every 10 families share a public kitchen and every 50 a bathroom.

The residents are expected to stay here for around a year, or even longer, before their permanent homes are ready.

Sichuan has given priority to rebuilding homes for farmers as more than half of the quake homeless in Sichuan come from rural areas.

The provincial government had launched a home reconstruction project in rural areas and all homeless farmers were expected to move in new permanent homes by 2009, said Jiang Jufeng.

Sichuan planned to build 3.5 million new homes for farmers and another 1 million for residents in urban areas.

Each rural family would be given an average subsidy of 20,000 yuan (2,915 U.S. dollars) to rebuild their homes and the government is drafting similar support polices for the urban homeless, said Jiang,

The governments in the quake-stricken areas were investigating home damage.

"Safety is the top priority in reconstruction," said the official.

The provincial government would organize experts to make free home designs for farmers, highlighting safety, practicality and cost-efficiency.

Jiang also urged local governments to ensure supplies of construction materials and to control prices, especially those of cement and steel.

(Xinhua News Agency July 5, 2008)

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