07/15/2008, 00.00
CHINA
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More than 1.4 million left in poverty by earthquake in Sichuan

Official estimates say that in 4,000 villages, entire communities have no supplies or shelter. Homes and roads must be rebuilt, and an entire economy destroyed in a few seconds. 12 billion yuan have been provided, while millions of people are preparing to spend months or years in the "tent cities".

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The May 12 earthquake has cast more than 1.4 million people into total misery, especially in more than 4,000 remote villages in southeastern Sichuan.

Fan Xiaojian, head of the government office for poverty assistance, explains that "in many counties, the hard-won anti-poverty achievements in the previous two decades disappeared within seconds". Homes collapsed, streets crumbled, entire farming communities have fallen into "absolute poverty", without even the means to ensure themselves food, clothing, and shelter. The area was already one of the poorest in the state, and before the earthquake about 2.1 million people lived in poverty (on less than a dollar a day) in Sichuan, according to official figures.

Now Beijing wants to reconstruct homes and services in the areas struck, and expects to spend 12 billion yuan (1.2 billion euros) over three years, about 3 million for each village. Meanwhile, many communities are preparing to spend months in the tent cities set up in the first days following the quake, but they need everything: food, clothing, electricity.

The earthquake caused about 70,000 deaths, to which must be added more than 17,000 people still missing, and it destroyed the homes of more than 5 million people.

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