Sunday, April 18, 2010

Aid Finally Reaches China's Remote Quake Zone

A 360 Degrees Perspective

China said today that a flood of badly needed aid had finally reached this quake-shattered town, including enough food and shelter for tens of thousands of suddenly homeless, though some complained chaotic distribution meant it wasn't reaching everyone in need.

The surge in aid coincided with the arrival of Chinese President Hu Jintao, who cut short an official trip to South America to deal with the disaster in this remote Tibetan region where residents have frequently chafed under Chinese rule. The quake Wednesday killed 1,706 people and injured 12,128.

The president's carefully scripted trip included visits with displaced families living in tents and rescue teams as they dug through debris looking for the 256 still missing. He promised that the Communist Party and the government was doing everything they could to help the mostly Tibetan quake victims.

Tibetan anger over political and religious restrictions and perceived economic exploitation by the majority Han Chinese have sometimes erupted in violence.

On Sunday, after days of sleeping in makeshift shelters, with ice forming on blankets during the frigid nights, nearly all survivors finally had proper tents and enough food and clean water to last at least a few days.

The sudden bounty appeared to come in the nick of time. Relief workers had warned that Jiegu was teetering on the edge of unrest, with people fighting over tents and other limited goods. Bottlenecks on the winding mountain road that links Jiegu to the provincial capital of Xining -- normally a 12-hour drive -- were blamed for the earlier trickle of supplies.

To prevent stockpiling and other problems, authorities Sunday were delivering aid to sites run by a specific county or town in the region, and residents originally from those places could register and get supplies there.

The system meant however that some people, particularly migrants, had no fixed aid station to go to.

Liu Shuzhen, a construction worker from neighboring Gansu province, was among those falling through the cracks. Liu, her husband and their four-year-old son were sleeping on plastic sheeting with a few tattered blankets pulled from the rubble.

She crouched in the blowing dust at the racetrack, guarding a battered box with a few bread rolls and bottles of water that Tibetan Buddhist monks had thrown down from a passing truck.

"When President Hu comes, maybe they'll hand out relief supplies and we could get some," Liu, 29, said hopefully, her right eye black from when the family's one-room home collapsed as they slept.

But Hu's expected visit to the racetrack didn't happen and the family was preparing to sleep another night in the cold.

China Daily; AP; Reuters; BBC.

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