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New School Term Put on Hold in Latest Quake-hit Regions

Schooling in some southwest regions hit by Saturday's earthquake was suspended for seven days on Monday, the start of a new term for the country's primary and middle schools.

The municipal government of Panzhihua, Sichuan Province, one of the hard-hit areas in the 6.1-magnitude tremor that killed at least 38 people in Sichuan and Yunnan provinces, announced Monday that schools and kindergartens will not open for a further seven days.

"School buildings suffered damage. A strict safety overhaul will be held on all schools, and the new term will begin on Sept. 8," said the government.

There are nearly 500 kindergartens, primary and middle schools in Panzhihua, for 150,000 students, said Shen Zhiqiang, an official with the city's educational bureau.

Huili county, the worst-hit area reporting 25 deaths so far, postponed the school opening to Saturday as 20 percent of its school buildings were damaged, according to Li Meihua, head of the county's educational bureau.

The quake affected 153 of the 290 primary and middle schools in the county, causing damage to 2,520 school houses and incurring 140 million yuan (US$20.5 million) in economic loss, Li said.

The local authorities were trying all out to repair destroyed facilities and establish tent schools for the new term and rearranging the timetable.

In Yi Autonomous Prefecture of Chuxiong, Yunnan, more than 18,800 students of 154 schools were not able to go to school after some 4,400 rooms in schools were destroyed or collapsed in the quake.

Some of them are expected to resume class in three days as workers are busy setting up tent schools or makeshift classrooms.

The prefecture reports about 420,000 school-aged children and more than 400,000 of them went to school Monday in unaffected areas.

The quake occurred Saturday afternoon, killing at least 38 people in Panzhihua and Huili in Sichuan and six others in the neighboring Yunnan so far.

(Xinhua News Agency September 1, 2008)

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