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Tents Among Most Wanted Materials

A senior official on Tuesday reiterated the government's call for more tents to shelter an estimated five million people left homeless by the May 12 earthquake.

About 280,000 tents have been dispatched to the quake-hit areas, but they are far from enough, Jiang Li, vice minister of civil affairs, told a press conference held by the State Council Information Office on the progress of relief work.

The ministry has ordered 700,000 tents from factories, which are working at full capacity to meet demand, she said.

Meanwhile, 1 million temporary shelter units will be built within three months, the disaster-relief headquarters of the State Council said in a statement on Tuesday.

The government is setting up temporary housing for quake victims unable to find shelter with relatives or friends, but there is a "desperate need for tents" to accommodate them, said Jiang.

She said the government has purchased enough materials to make 800,000 makeshift sheds and is pressing for the construction of mobile homes.

"We will do our utmost to ensure that homeless people find a place to live."

The government will procure and deliver more tents and awnings to quake-affected provinces, the State Council's earthquake relief headquarters agreed at a meeting on Tuesday.

The meeting, presided over by Premier Wen Jiabao, planned to collect 40,000 tents to distribute in disaster areas before the end of May and send 30,000 tents each day afterwards along with a total of 800,000 awnings in June.

Tents and awnings have been reported as the most wanted materials by more than 110,000 military and civilian rescuers.

All forms of transport have been told to give priority to tent and awning shipments.

Wen pledged to transport 6,000 units of temporary housing to the quake areas in the next two days, 250,000 units by the end of June and one million units within three months.

He also urged the Water Resources Ministry to send experts to dams and reservoirs in quake-hit areas for 24-hour patrols since the weather forecast is for heavy rains in the next 48 hours.

Jiang also said on Tuesday that the government will ensure that the survivors have food, drinking water and tools to start the reconstruction of their homes.

"Even after generous donations, the disaster is so great that victims still face a challenge finding accommodation," she said.

To ensure donations reach the quake-hit regions timely, the authorities have imposed rigid rules to make their disbursal "effective and transparent".

Donations reached 13.9 billion yuan (US$2 billion), with 12.5 billion yuan in cash and 1.4 billion yuan in relief materials by Tuesday noon, according to the State Council Information Office.

Apart from tents, 783,984 cotton-padded quilts, 1,783,600 items of cotton-padded clothes and food and drinking water worth 218 million yuan have been sent to the disaster areas, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said.

The ministry, along with the Ministry of Finance and the National Audit Office (NAO), will jointly supervise the use of donations, Jiang said.

The NAO pledged last week it would audit the use of cash and goods to ensure resources were strictly managed and used properly.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs is making public the allocation of the donations every day, Jiang said.

But she added that as grass-roots governments are still focusing on rescuing lives and accommodating the relocated people as "they need time to publicize their use of the donations".

Pang Chenmin, deputy director-general of the disaster-relief department at the Ministry of Civil Affairs, said that all organizations receiving donations are banned from levying "administrative or operational fees".

"I assure you we will efficiently and completely deliver your donations to the quake-stricken areas," said Pang.

"We also welcome the public, including the media, to supervise the use of donations," he said.

(Xinhua News Agency May 21, 2008)

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