China provides pre-festival aid to disaster-hit areas

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Beijing (dpa) - The Chinese government and the Red Cross this week doled out relief aid to boost flagging morale among millions of people affected by natural disasters in the past year, officials said on Friday.

The aid was dispatched as Chinese prepared for the Lunar New Year celebration in February.

China's Red Cross Society on Friday dispatched four teams to distribute some 1.5 million yuan (181,000 dollars) worth of meat, flour and cooking oil to disaster-stricken areas of Qinghai, Shaanxi, Hebei, Shanxi, Zhejiang, Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang and Tibet, a Red Cross official confirmed by telephone.

Most of mainland China was hit by natural disasters last year that left hundreds of millions still without adequate food, clothing, shelter and medicines.

In northwestern Qinghai province, relief officials have dispatched some 65 billion yuan in cash and supplies to farmers struggling to survive last year's devastating floods and an ongoing drought, an official with the provincial disaster relief office said by telephone.

More than 3.5 million mostly poor farmers and herders in 40 counties across Qinghai watched fields of grain wither and more than 1 million head of livestock die off amid a killer drought that has continued for more than 220 days.

Some 310,000 Qinghai residents have already received grain rations, 100,000 have been issued tents and 1,034 had their homes rebuilt by the government, the official People's Daily said on Friday.

Last year's spring drought was suspended only by heavy rains which triggered two months of summer flooding that caused at least 60 deaths and wiped out 420,000 hectares of crops, said Zhang Hong of the provincial disaster relief bureau in the regional capital of Xining.

The deadly cycle of drought and flood was punctuated by violent wind and hailstorms and a locust plague. Direct economic losses in the province have exceeded 1.13 billion yuan, Zhang said.

Relief money and supplies are expected to lift spirits during the Lunar New Year celebrations, China's most important holiday, which begins on February 5. The Qinghai government will most likely need to continue supporting millions of devastated farmers into August, Zhang said.

In southwestern China's Yunnan province, government and Red Cross relief aid has begun trickling into poor, mountainous areas of Yunnan province after twin earthquakes jolted the region on January 14.

The magnitude-5.9 and 6.5 Richter scale quakes left five people dead, 88 critically injured and forced more than 120,000 survivors to sleep outside in freezing weather.

While more than 1,000 tents have already arrived to the disaster area, tens of thousands remain huddled in makeshift shelters while they await the arrival more tents and warm clothing, said Dai Zhiqiang of the provincial civil affairs bureau.

The quakes affected some 1.76 million mostly ethnic minority farmers ranging from Chuxiong and Dali prefectures to the Lijiang Naxi ethnic minority region in the northwestern section of Yunnan.

Yunnan provincial officials on Thursday allocated an additional 20 million yuan to supplement the inital 8 million yuan earmarked for disaster relief to the area and some 3.5 million yuan in donations from Hong Kong and the governments of the quake-hit areas, Xinhua said on Friday.

The Yunnan branch of China's Red Cross has meanwhile received some 1.3 million yuan in cash and relief materials from Hong Kong's Red Cross, the national Red Cross and various mainland non-government organisations, said Red Cross Yunnan Branch Vice President Shi Luhua.

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Received by NewsEdge Insight: 01/21/2000 05:42:30

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