Sichuan province will complete restoration and reconstruction of 95 percent of the schools that collapsed in last year's earthquake by 2010, a top provincial official said.
The province's executive vice-governor Wei Hong made the remarks at a press conference on post-quake reconstruction on the sidelines of the ongoing National People's Congress session in Beijing yesterday.
A total of 9,145 schools need restoration and reconstruction. Construction is underway on 1,780 schools - more than 53 percent of the 39 most severely affected counties' total, he said.
The 8.0-magnitude May 12 earthquake - the epicenter of which was in Wenchuan county 92 km from the provincial capital Chengdu - killed 69,227 people and left 17,923 missing. Many of the dead and missing were students but the student toll has never been officially announced.
The number of students killed is still being calculated 10 months after the earthquake, Wei said.
The calculation must be done according to pertinent regulations of the central government's relevant ministries and commissions.
"It is a very complicated process. We need to conduct a series of calculations and checks, especially of the locations and basic information about those killed," Wei said.
"It is very hard to determine the actual number of students who died," he said, adding the government was "speeding up" the process.
But the vice-governor pledged the earthquake's death toll, including the student toll, would eventually be announced, because the government is the people's government, he said.
When asked whether shoddy construction caused about 7,000 classrooms to collapse while nearby buildings remained standing, Wei said the quake's mighty scale and intensity were the damage's primary causes.
He said the conclusion was made after an investigation by engineering experts from Tsinghua University, the Chinese Academy of Building Research and official experts from Sichuan.
Wei said the quake's destructive force was 1 or 2 degrees stronger than what the schoolhouses had been designed to withstand.
The differing geography of affected areas in the quake zone meant schools and other buildings were affected in different ways; some collapsed while other stood.
But experts reached the consensus that the earthquake was the damage's primary cause, he said.
In December, the official Xinhua News Agency reported the NPC standing committee had passed a law requiring schools be built to higher earthquake-resistance standards than other public buildings.
In his government report delivered at the current NPC session's opening ceremony on Thursday, Premier Wen Jiabao promised to make the public feel schools were safe places.
There have been no famines, epidemics or refugees since the quake, because the government has tried its best to provide survivors decent food and shelter, Wei told China Daily.
(China Daily March 9, 2009)