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Snow-affected areas start reconstruction
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Areas of China affected by the recent severe weather have shifted from emergency work to reconstruction, with transport and power supplies returning to normal.

The government of central Hunan Province, one of the areas hardest hit by the worst weather in half a century, said that it would offer a subsidy of 5,000 yuan (US$694) to each household whose residence was destroyed. Around 67,000 houses in Hunan collapsed in the snowy weather, which persisted from mid-January through late in the month.

The provincial civil affairs authorities have started checking those in need of government help, pledging they could move to new houses by May.

According to the latest official statistics, snow-related catastrophes killed 107 people and caused 111.1 billion yuan in direct losses. In all, 21 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities have been affected. A total of 354,000 houses collapsed and 1.5 million people were evacuated.

Seven provinces -- Hunan, Guizhou, Jiangxi, Anhui, Hubei, Zhejiang and Sichuan -- and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region were the worst-hit areas, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said.

In Guangxi, 1,332 schools were damaged and more than 1,200 classrooms became dangerous.

Yu Yizhong, director of the region's education department, urged local education administration bureaus and schools to try to raise funds and launch repair and reconstruction work as soon as possible to ensure the spring term opens as scheduled.

The extreme weather also affected nearly 24.4 million hectares of farmland and 18.6 million ha of forests. Agricultural technicians have been organized to go to rural areas to help farmers with crop planting.

On Thursday, nearly 30 agricultural experts in eastern Anhui Province set out for a weeklong service journey to snow-stricken rural areas. They will check damage and help farmers replant vegetable fields.

Similar technical teams have been organized in other provinces such as Jiangxi to help farmers restore agricultural production.

Also in Jiangxi, rural credit cooperatives have provided farmers with loans totaling 3.5 billion yuan.

(Xinhua News Agency February 15, 2008)

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