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Ministries take steps to bring relief to people
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Major central government departments have taken prompt action to help ease economic and transport woes caused by unprecedented snowstorms in central and eastern China.

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) is trying to keep food prices in snow-hit areas under control.

One of the steps it has taken to realize that is exempting trucks carrying agricultural products from paying road tolls from Jan 26. Also, it will offer subsidies to basic food sellers and ensure there is enough reserve in the market to keep prices down.

The Ministry of Commerce (MOC) is trying to regulate the market and maintain proper supply of goods in storm-hit regions, a ministry announcement said.

The MOC is asking commerce departments at various government levels to inspect the reserve of staple products such as pork, and ensure that they can be transported to the right places when the need arises.

"In case there's a shortage of certain product, the ministry should use the local reserve first. Only after that, it can seek from the central reserve," the MOC says on its website.

The ministry will choose some large-scale manufacturers and retailers to build a stable supply network and efficient distribution channel. With its already in-use database for emergency products, the MOC will try to coordinate with enterprises, and increase the reserve of essentials for immediate use.

Also, it will cooperate with the railways and other transport departments to ensure that basic necessities such as meat, poultry and vegetables are transported properly and timely.

And it will regulate the market further before Spring Festival to ensure that speculators don't raise the prices very high.

The health authorities has pressed 13,910 medical workers in service by Jan 29 to provide vital healthcare assistance to people in areas hit hard by heavy rain and snow.

The medics have helped about 54,036 people in Anhui, Jiangxi, Hunan, Hubei, Sichuan, Guizhou provinces, Chongqing municipality, and the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) issued an emergency circular yesterday, urging officials in the disaster-hit areas to further strengthen the supervision on sanitation to ensure food and water safety.

"The MOH will be in close contact with local health authorities over healthcare assistance and the response to a possible health crisis to ensure timely and proper medical help for people in need," the circular says.

It calls for more professional help to treat patients shocked or traumatized by the unprecedented turn in the weather. To date more than 3 million pamphlets on mental health and sanitation have been distributed among the people.

(China Daily January 31, 2008)

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