Disaster prevails as relief effort beefed up
Weather conditions in southern China will remain severe and relief work difficult, Chinese leaders warned yesterday as the country battles with the worst snowfalls in decades.
The warning came after a meeting chaired by Chinese President Hu Jintao to study the relief effort.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has just concluded his second visit in a week to central Hunan Province, the region worst hit.
Wen’s last stop, Chenzhou City, is still suffering power failures and a lack of running water.
Visiting homes of local residents who have had no water and electricity for 10 days, Wen said: “Please be patient. The situation will be better in a few days as the government is going all out to help you.”
A statement issued after the meeting said: “We have to be clear minded that certain regions in the south will continue to undergo icy weather caused by rain and snow and severe disasters will continue.”
“Relief work will remain very grim, posing a tough task on us,” it added. The statement noted that it remained a priority for the government to restore transport and power supplies and guarantee people’s daily needs.
The meeting urged local officials to make relief work a priority even though the transport and power supply problems in some disaster-hit regions have eased. The transportation authority will concentrate on helping stranded people on their way home, and the delivery of relief materials, daily necessities and coal to power plants.
China is facing its worst energy shortage in many years, with heightened demand caused by the intense cold and the snow, and insufficient coal supplies unable to keep up. After an energy shortage that has struck at least 13 provinces and reached about 70 gigawatts, approximately equal to the entire capacity of Great Britain, the government has ordered that coal be supplied first of all to the power plants.
Governments of all levels are told to crack down upon overcharging, especially on daily commodities such as rice, meat and cooking oil.
Chinese army sent out military vehicles, from tanks to armored cars, to clean the highways while the air force’s helicopters and transporters lifted relief material such as candles and quilts to several heavily-affected regions.
Some private companies yesterday donated more than 10 million yuan (US$1.36 million) to victims in affected areas.