The Chinese government on Thursday again called on the international community to provide tents to quake-hit Sichuan Province, saying about 3.3 million are needed.
About 400,000 tents have been sent to quake-hit areas but they are far from enough, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said at a regular press conference.
To make up for the shortfall, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development yesterday urged local authorities to build 1 million temporary homes by August 10.
Underscoring the urgency of the situation, President Hu Jintao visited two tent manufacturers in Zhejiang province yesterday, urging them to produce as many as possible.
The government has said it needs tents to house nearly 5 million people displaced by the magnitude-8 quake on May 12.
Earlier yesterday, Hu presided over a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee.
The Party leadership ordered rescuers to search for trapped people in every village, to ensure that no one was left behind, and try to treat all injured people, in order to "save as many lives as possible".
They agreed that the current situation is still grave and the relief work is tough. It ordered shipments of more food, water, clothing and bedding, as well as tents and makeshift housing.
The leadership also urged local authorities to maintain social stability, assist farmers restore agricultural production, and help students go back to school as soon as possible.
To oversee relief work, Premier Wen Jiabao yesterday flew to the quake-battered zone - the second time in less than two weeks.
Wen said aboard the plane to Sichuan: "Reconstruction will be a hard and long-term task."
Wen flew in a helicopter to Beichuan county to inspect the situation at one of the largest "quake lakes" - formed when rivers are blocked by landslides - at 4:40 pm.
There are 34 such lakes in the province.
The quake death toll reached 51,151 yesterday, with 288,431 injured, the Information Office of the State Council said, adding that 29,328 were missing.
Hospitals have taken in 68,608 injured people since the quake; and by noon yesterday, 28,497 had been discharged, the Ministry of Health said.
No major outbreak of epidemic diseases or other public health threats have been reported in quake-stricken areas, it said.
More than 5,000 health workers have fanned out to disinfect quake-hit villages, and doctors and nurses are stationed round the clock in refugee camps to try to prevent survivors from falling sick.
The State Electricity Regulatory Commission said yesterday that power supply was restored in most parts of quake-hit areas. But Beichuan county, one of the worst hit, was still blacked out and power supply to Hongyuan was cut off again due to aftershocks.
Water supply has also been restored in all the county seats affected in the quake except Wenchuan and Beichuan.
Local authorities in Chengdu yesterday issued a notice ordering all government departments and enterprises to resume operations.
Banks, schools, shops, restaurants and government units were told to operate as usual, while market, price and drug regulators were urged to step up supervision to maintain stability.
All the wagons trapped in a tunnel on the Baoji-Chengdu railway have been towed away, paving the way for the reopening of the line, the Ministry of Railways announced yesterday.
CCTV reported the tunnel would reopen tomorrow after workers clear the debris and fix the tunnel.
On May 12, when the quake struck, a 40-car freight train derailed, caught fire, and was trapped in the tunnel, paralyzing the railway.
Sichuan recorded 7,182 aftershocks after the May 12 quake, with the strongest measuring 6.1 magnitude, according to the provincial government.
Rain is forecast to sweep the quake-hit regions next week and could trigger landslides and mud-rock flows, the National Meteorological Center warned yesterday.
The rain is also likely to add to the risk of quake lakes, meteorologists said.
(China Daily & Xinhua News Agency May 23, 2008)