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More Villagers Moved to Temporary Shelters

Zhang Jianfu has never spent a night with nine family members in a crowded tent, but he now has to do so for a least a week.

Zhang and 3,000 other fellow villagers have just moved to Baosheng Road shelter in Qingyi county, near the Fujiang River, which flows into the Tangjiashan quake-lake in Mianyang.

Staff at the Tangjiashan headquarters said except for a few monitors, about 620 soldiers and engineers have all left the quake lake area. By 5:00 PM on Monday the water surface at the top of the dam was about 5 m. Experts said the water may affect some villages in the coming days.

Zhang and other family members brought mattresses, wooden boards and even sofa sets from their home and squeezed them all into the tent.

The 63-year-old man had even prepared a dozen boiled-eggs for his family before the massive evacuation.

"The tent is much noisier at night than in the daytime," the retired worker said.

"One of my sons-in-law snores, and another one talks in his sleep. The situation is tough, but it's only temporary."

Zhang has experienced four earthquakes in his lifetime, but last month's quake was the strongest one. His family's chicken farm was entirely destroyed.

However, Zhang does not waste time thinking about his loss.

"We are lucky, no one was injured. We will rebuild our farm as soon as we can," he said.

Qingyi county is home to more than 52,000 people. Up to 3,847 villagers were evacuated on Friday and settled at two shelters which have basic facilities.

At the Baosheng Road shelter, villagers have strung up washing lines between tents. Rice and electrical pressure cookers lie abandoned outside the tents. "They are useless here due to the limited power. It is only enough for lighting and recharging mobile phones," He Shiwen, chief of the police station, said.

He said Southwest University of Science and Technology is providing free meals for some of the villagers while others are relying on relatives.

The shelters are sprayed with disinfectant three times a day.

The villagers kill time by watching TV, listening to the radio, playing cards or chatting.

"There was no problem evacuating the people, moving their cows and chickens posed a challenge," He said.

The villagers have asked to be allowed to feed their cattle and chickens.

It will take about four hours for the water to flood the county, He said. It will take about one-and-a-half hours to move the cattle and chickens to a safe place once the alarm is given.

Mianyang is a home to 5.5 million people, and more than 197,000 have been evacuated.

One of the city's shelters is a former police institute and is less crowded than the county ones. "It's quite difficult to keep residents here as they don't see floods threatening the city," Li Hua, a teacher of Mianyang Party School, said.

Li said people keep shuttling between the shelter and their homes because of the high temperatures in the tents and the convenient facilities they have at home - showers and kitchens for instance.

That has posed difficulties for community officers who have to keep persuading people to return to the shelter.

"We are waiting anxiously," Li said. "The longer people stay here, the more problems will emerge, not only for them, but also for our administrators."

A press officer, Hu Peng, said: "We cannot give a specific date when people will be able to go home. Everything depends on when the flood occurs."

Kang Duoming, a resident, of Hangyun, remains calm. He operates a teahouse on the ground floor of his home about 20 m away from the Fujiang River.

His wife has finished packing and is ready to move to the nearest shelter anytime the warning is given.

"I am not panicking at all, even though there is a huge trough of water hanging above our heads," Kang said. "Panicking does not solve our problem."

But the Sichuan native has no complaints. "We trust our government, but it doesn't mean we should rely on it all the time. I won't ask for a penny in compensation. I will restart my business when the time is right," Kang said.

(China Daily June 3, 2008)

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