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Gov't to spend more on disaster relief
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China's Ministry of Finance has spent 2.7 billion yuan (US$375 million) over the past month on relief for areas affected by the severe winter weather and has allocated another 6.3 billion yuan for the work, senior ministry official You Mingchun said on Thursday.

Vice Minister of Civil Affairs Li Liguo told a press conference on Thursday that the central government would most likely spend more on the disaster relief, without revealing the scale of further financial support.

Li said his ministry would work with the ministries of commerce, agriculture and health to ensure that residents in disaster-stricken areas have sufficient food, clothing and shelter and adequate medical services. Primary and middle school education should be guaranteed.

Li said the Ministry of Civil Affairs had arranged a raise in subsistence allowances for low-income earners in urban areas. It would formulate reconstruction schemes for the disaster-hit areas in March and complete restoration work on collapsed housing before the end of June.

Extreme weather has left 107 people dead and eight missing, and cost about 111.1 billion yuan (US$15.4 billion).

Twenty-one provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities have been affected. About 1.5 million people have been relocated, and 1.93 million people were left stranded before finding transport.

The freak weather affected almost 24.4 million hectares of farmland and 18.6 million hectares of forests, leading to the collapse of about 354,000 houses.

(Xinhua News Agency February 14, 2008)

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