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Anti-quake Heroes Honored as Post-quake Construction Goes on

China held a ceremony on Wednesday to honor 522 individuals and 320 organizations for their relief efforts after the May 12 earthquake struck the country's southwest.

At the ceremony, President Hu Jintao urged the country to promote the anti-quake spirit in fighting ways to rebuild homes in the quake-stricken areas.

Under the swift move of the government, army and volunteers, more than 80,000 people were pulled out of the debris and more than 4.3 million were given timely treatment.

Among the honored was Jiang Min, a policewoman renowned in China for her devotion to quake victims while 10 of her own relatives, including her mother and two-year-old daughter, died in the devastating quake.

"The honor should belong to the Chinese people. I'm just an ordinary person after I return to my post, and I will do my duties as others do," she said.

At present, the post-quake construction is being carried out fervently in quake-stricken areas such as Sichuan, Shanxi and Gansu. As the winter nears, whether people could get through the cold season safely, when the millions of collapsed houses could be rebuilt, and whether the frequent secondary disasters could be prevented are problems governments have to face.

Just before the October 1 National Day, a rainstorm struck most of the quake-hit areas in Sichuan Province. A flood and mudslides left 16 dead and 48 missing, and tens of thousands of houses were shattered or toppled.

Nearly 13,000 points with geological risks were uncovered in the quake-hit areas, said Xu Shaoshi, the Land and Resources Minister, on Tuesday.

Another challenge was sewage treatment.

"Although money is a big problem, the Environment Protection Ministry is urging local governments to build a series of centralized sewage treatment plants," said Ma Ning, director of the Southwest Environmental Protection Supervision Center with the ministry.

How to live through the winter is the most urgent task.

Shen Suhua, 45, a villager in Renhe Village, Shifang City, one of the worst-hit areas in the quake, watched the TV broadcast of the ceremony in her prefabricated house. Hu's words left her relieved.

Her original house was made of wooden blocks and oilcloth. Small gaps were found all through the house.

"My clothing is still buried under the debris. The donated clothes do not suit me. I have to wear a T-shirt in such cool weather," she said.

In Sichuan, about 1.82 million households are living in prefab houses.

For 4.45 million families who lost their homes in the quake, to move in a permanent house is their best wish. However, most could not afford to build a house.

They were lucky the Sichuan government launched a housing subsidy scheme on Tuesday to assist quake-affected urbanites during the reconstruction.

Each urban family whose house was demolished in the quake could receive a cash subsidy of 25,000 yuan (US$3,669) in addition to other preferential policies. These included a tax reduction for building new houses and lower prices for buying apartments, the provincial government announced at a conference on Tuesday.

People below the urban poverty line could live in a 40-square-meter apartment offered free by the government. Those who lost all their family members could live in welfare homes with a 35,000 yuan government subsidy.

The provincial government had made prefabricated houses for 10 million people in three months following the quake. It plans to reconstruct all the damaged houses by the end of 2010.

The country will spend three years to complete the preliminary reconstruction and further develop the quake-hit region in the following five years. Central finance has allocated 70 billion yuan to create a reconstruction fund for the region this year.

Currently, workers from 20 provinces are helping the reconstruction in quake-hit areas. Those provinces will put at least 1 percent of their financial revenues every year into the reconstruction projects.

The magnitude-8.0 quake claimed more than 69,000 lives and left nearly 18,000 missing and more than 374,000 injured. It left millions homeless in Sichuan and some neighboring regions.

(Xinhua News Agency October 9, 2008)

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