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Latest News
Special> Aftermath of the Quake> Latest News
UPDATED: May 22, 2008 From china.org.cn
Central Government to Slash Spending for Quake Relief
Government departments are ordered to cut spending by 5 percent this year to free up money for quake reconstruction

The State Council on Wednesday ordered government departments to cut spending by 5 percent this year to free up money for quake reconstruction.

The money will help to finance a 70 billion yuan ($10 billion) fund for rebuilding after the May 12 quake, which killed tens of thousands, the Cabinet said on its website.

The death toll from the quake rose to 41,353 by noon on Wednesday, and 274,683 were injured, according to the Information Office of the State Council. The number of missing has been put at 32,666.

The overall impact of the quake on China's fast-growing economy is expected to be limited. Sichuan is a major source of coal, natural gas and some farm goods but has little industry.

The quake destroyed thousands of buildings, knocked out power and phone services and damaged factories, mines and other facilities. State-owned and private companies suffered 67 billion yuan ($9.5 billion) in quake losses, according to the government's preliminary estimates.

Yesterday's Cabinet statement gave no details of how much money the spending cuts were expected to raise. But the reported budget for the central government this year, including the military, is 1.3 trillion yuan ($187 billion) - and 5 percent of that would be 65 billion yuan ($9.3 billion).

Beijing will set a moratorium on new government building projects, Premier Wen Jiabao told a State Council meeting.

Wen said the quake "added uncertainties" to the economy but he said it was stable and its fundamentals were not affected, Xinhua reported.

Donations to quake-hit regions reached 16 billion yuan ($2.29 billion), of which 1.76 billion yuan ($250 million) has been forwarded to affected areas, according to the information office.

In addition, the Ministry of Finance announced on Wednesday that it has allocated another 660 million yuan ($94.83 million) in relief funds to quake-stricken areas.

As the summer draws near, the quake-hit regions are facing mounting pressure to prevent epidemics.

About 45,000 medical workers are working in all quake-hit counties and townships in Sichuan, according to the Ministry of Health.

About 1,196 tons of disinfectants and bactericides were distributed, the ministry said in a statement.

In seven out of the 11 worst-hit counties, sanitation work has been completed and in the other four, one-third of the townships have been covered.

According to local health departments, doctors found 58 cases of gas gangrene, a bacterial infection that produces gas within gangrenous tissues, as of Sunday.

But officials said the virus does not affect people without open wounds.

Meanwhile, rescuers are still fighting time to find survivors.

According to the Department of General Staff of the People's Liberation Army, rescuers saved and evacuated 396,811 people to safe places as of on Wednesday noon.

A total of 6,452 have been dug out alive from the rubble, with 77 rescued in the 36 hours to noon on Wednesday.

The Ministry of Health said that 3,424 people injured in the quake had died in hospitals.

Hospitals have taken in 59,394 injured people since the quake, of whom 30,289 were discharged, the ministry said.

Power has been restored in most parts of quake-hit areas but Beichuan County, one of the worst hit, remained blacked out and electricity in Hongyuan was cut off again due to aftershocks, the State Electricity Regulatory Commission said in a statement.

Experts on Wednesday said there was no need to worry that the 33 lakes in Sichuan - formed after landslides blocked rivers - would burst their banks.

"Generally speaking, those lakes are safe because the flood season is yet to come," said Liu Ning, general engineer of the Ministry of Water Resources.

"We are monitoring the lakes round the clock," he added.

(China Daily, Xinhua News Agency May 22, 2008)

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