China

China's Wen pledges to double disaster relief funds

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BEIJING, Aug 15 (Reuters) - Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao pledged on Wednesday to almost double disaster relief funds to 11.54 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) as the country grapples with natural disasters during a summer of wild weather.

A series of natural disasters, mainly floods and landslides, struck China this summer. In July alone, 712 people were killed, 163 were listed missing, 464,000 homes were toppled, 3.8 million people were evacuated and 26,670 sq km (10,300 sq miles) of crops destroyed. Other parts of the country endured drought.

Wen presided over a cabinet meeting which decided to boost the central government's disaster relief funds from 6.7 billion yuan, the central government's Web site (www.gov.cn) said.

Victims who lost their homes will receive compensation of 1,500 yuan each, up from 600 yuan. Families forced to relocate will be given 20,400 yuan each.

Winter subsidies for victims will be increased to 150 yuan from 126 yuan each.

The government should "make all-out efforts to help victims rebuild their homes and make sure they move into new homes before winter", the Web site said, quoting meeting minutes.

The meeting decided the government should also step up efforts to avert epidemics at disaster areas, improve weather forecasts, ensure dykes and reservoirs do not burst, prevent flooding and restore damaged irrigation systems.

In the face of rising protests spawned by a widening wealth gap and public anger over corruption, Wen has sought to portray himself as a man of the people who cares about the have-nots of society. He has eaten dumplings with miners in underground mines and helped farmers working in cities retrieve unpaid wages.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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