Flood of aid reaches China`s remote quake zone

Last Updated: Monday, April 19, 2010 - 09:02

Jiegu: Badly needed aid finally is arriving in a remote western China town shattered by an earthquake, including enough food and shelter for tens of thousands of suddenly homeless, though some complained it was not reaching everyone in need.

The surge in aid coincided with the arrival on Sunday of Chinese President Hu Jintao, who cut short an official trip to South America to deal with the disaster in this remote Tibetan region where residents have frequently chafed under Chinese rule. The quake on Wednesday killed 1,706 people and injured 12,128.

The President`s carefully scripted trip included visits with displaced families living in tents and rescue teams as they dug through debris looking for the 256 still missing. He promised that the Communist Party and the government was doing everything they could. Tibetan anger over political and religious restrictions and perceived economic exploitation by the majority Han Chinese have sometimes erupted in violence.

China Central Television showed Hu sitting with a Tibetan middle school student at a field hospital and comforting her as she wept. Her right arm was bandaged and supported by a sling.

"Rest assured, you will have a full recovery," he told the girl. "You will have a bright future. Grandpa will be thinking of you."

Hu and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who visited Jiegu on Thursday, have both cultivated compassionate, grandfatherly images to portray the leadership as putting people first.

From 1988 to 1992, Hu was the party boss of Tibet, which neighbours Qinghai province where the earthquake struck, and he has a mixed reputation among ethnic Tibetans. A hardline governor, he oversaw the imposition of martial law in Tibet in 1989 after anti-government violence erupted there. As the country`s top leader, he has maintained a firm line on dissent while also championing policies that have funnelled billions of dollars in aid and investment to Tibetan areas.

On Sunday, after days of sleeping in makeshift shelters, with ice forming on blankets during the frigid nights, nearly all survivors finally had proper tents and enough food and clean water to last at least a few days.

The sudden bounty appeared to come in the nick of time. Relief workers had warned that Jiegu was teetering on the edge of unrest, with people fighting over tents and other limited goods. Bottlenecks on the winding mountain road that links Jiegu to the provincial capital of Xining — normally a 12-hour drive — were blamed for the earlier trickle of supplies.

Zou Ming, head of disaster relief at the Ministry of Civil Affairs, told a news conference in Beijing that most survivors now had tents, basic food and clean water.

Government-issued blue tents that were sparsely dotted around town in recent days popped up in abundance on Sunday. Some families set them up next to the ruins of their flattened mud brick homes. Others pitched theirs on a horse racing track turned refugee camp, the largest of several tent cities in Jiegu.

Bureau Report

First Published: Monday, April 19, 2010 - 09:02

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