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China says quake relief will shift to rebuilding

April 26, 2010

BEIJING, April 23 (AP) -- A senior government official said earthquake
relief efforts in a Tibetan region will shift from searching for
possible survivors to reconstruction and the resettlement of those who
lost homes after the temblor flattened tens of thousands of houses,
state media reported Sunday.

Saturday was the final day that rescuers would search the quake zone for
survivors still buried under rubble, Xinhua News Agency said, and Vice
Premier Hui Liangyu said work would now focus on building temporary
shelters, treating people who were hurt and reconstructing the quake-hit
area.

On Saturday, the Chinese government also promised to repair monasteries
that were damaged, days after monks assisting in relief work were told
to leave the disaster area. The death toll from the massive quake that
flattened houses rose by 11 to more than 2,200, state media said.

China's communist leadership is wary of Buddhist monks because of their
loyalty to their exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, whom Beijing
says has pushed for independence for Tibet. The government decision to
send the crimson-robed monks out of the quake zone raised concerns that
the move was politically motivated.

At the same time, the government appears to be using its full-scale
relief operation to show it cares about China's Tibetan communities,
some of which staged anti-government protests in 2008.

The death toll from the April 14 earthquake centered in Yushu county of
western China's Qinghai province rose to 2,203, while more than 12,000
were injured, Xinhua News Agency reported Sunday. As of Saturday night,
73 people were still missing.

The provincial civil affairs bureau said Saturday it would provide 8,000
yuan ($1,170) in subsidies to families for each death from the quake,
according to Xinhua. It would also raise the monthly assistance for
orphaned children, widowed elderly and the disabled to 1,000 yuan per
person, from 600 yuan, for three months, Xinhua said.

Authorities were planning to repair the 87 monasteries damaged by the
quake, Xinhua said. The vast majority of Yushu's residents are Tibetan
and most are deeply devout Buddhists. The area has 238 monasteries with
more than 23,000 monks, Xinhua said.

Monks were among the first on the scene after the earthquake, helping to
dig survivors and bodies from the rubble and handing out aid to
survivors. Several days ago, monks told the AP they had been told to
leave the area.

Chinese authorities said specialized personnel were needed for
reconstruction work and rejected accusations that they had been told to
leave for political reasons.
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