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US$1b loan to quake zone gets approval
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Six months after the Sichuan earthquake, the Cabinet on Tuesday approved five international organizations to provide emergency loans totaling $1.5 billion, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) announced on Wednesday.

The funds will be used for infrastructure, healthcare, education, environmental and energy projects in Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi provinces, it said.

The bulk of the money, $710 million, will come from the World Bank, with the rest coming from the Asian Development Bank, the European Investment Bank, the French Development Agency, and the Rome-based International Fund for Agricultural Development, the NDRC said.

Mara Warwick, Wenchuan earthquake response coordinator for the World Bank in Beijing, said $510 million has been earmarked for Sichuan and $200 million for Gansu.

The loans will be made available to the provinces once the bank's Washington headquarters has given its approval, she said.

In addition to the international loans, a spokesman for the Civil Affairs Ministry said yesterday it is working on plans to revamp infrastructure in the quake-hit regions following the announcement last week by the State Council of a $586 billion plan to stimulate the domestic economy.

Meanwhile, a senior civil affairs official from Sichuan said yesterday that of the 624 children orphaned by the earthquake, the vast majority are now living with relatives, rather than being put up for adoption.

Zhang Li, deputy head of the Sichuan civil affairs department, said: "Although many people filed requests to adopt quake orphans, only 12 children were actually registered for adoption with civil affairs authorities."

Thorough checks were made prior to the children's adoptions, and a constant watch is being kept to ensure their safety and security, he said.

"We receive regular updates, and know they are all being well looked after," he said.

Also on Tuesday, an agreement was signed between the Civil Affairs Ministry and a State-run charity foundation to activate a 300 million yuan fund, which, from December, will pay an allowance of 600 yuan a month to each of the 624 earthquake orphans.

The magnitude 8 quake that shook Sichuan and its neighboring provinces on May 12, claimed more than 69,000 lives and left almost 18,000 people missing.

(China Daily November 13, 2008)

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