Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is inspecting tropical storm Bilis-ravaged areas in central China's Hunan Province and has given instructions to local officials on reconstruction work and preparation against similar mishaps.
"The top task before us is to arrange for the lives of people affected, ensuring they have adequate food, clothing, shelters, clean water and medical care," Wen said Saturday in Hunan, the worst-hit province with 346 confirmed fatalities and 89 missing by Friday.
"Meanwhile, production must be restored and homes rebuilt as soon as possible," he said.
Bilis hit 33 counties and six cities of Hunan, bringing about rainstorms, flash floods, landslides and mudflows since its landfall on July 14, affecting 7.29 million people.
Damaged public and infrastructure facilities of water, power, road, communications and schools should also be fixed, the premier said.
He required the local government to start the planning and rebuilding of new houses, paying special attention to safety in selecting the sites.
The premier warned there remain the possibility of more storms since it is still in flood and typhoon season.
He said four jobs must be done properly to guard against further typhoons or rainstorms.
First, accurate weather information should be available to help people evade dangers in advance.
Second, preparations must be made to prevent and control geological disasters including landslides and mudflows.
Third, ensure all reservoirs, especially the major Dongjiang reservoir in Hunan, is sound and safe.
Fourth, ensure the safety of the banks and dikes of major rivers.
Hunan has numerous rivers and lakes and enjoys a humid climate, making it vulnerable to floods.
Kuncun village has suffered 56 fatalities and 5 missings in the storm, with more than 800 villagers rendered homeless.
"You have been hit by a once-in-a-century disaster and suffered a lot," Wen told the farmers. "I felt deeply worried and wanted to see you here as early as possible."
"The government will help you build new houses, which will be better," Wen said, holding the hands of an old farmer name Fan Jiancheng.
The best way to remember those killed in the disaster, Wen said, is to brace up to build the homeland better.
"The disasters can damage our homes, claim the lives of many of our people, but they can never break our willpower," said Wen, and he encouraged the locals to work hard to reduce the damage to the minimum.
Bilis dumped torrents of rain and triggered heavy floods in Zhejiang, Fujian, Jiangxi, Hunan, Guangdong and Guangxi in the past ten days, leaving a path of deaths and destruction.
More than 20 million people were affected and economic losses reached 11.8 billion yuan (US$1.5 billion), said the Ministry of Civil Affairs last week.
(Xinhua News Agency July 24, 2006)