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    » 05/30/2008, 00.00

    CHINA

    Sichuan: corruption alleged in collapse of school on 9,000 students



    For the first time, official sources admit that buildings were built poorly. Meanwhile, work continues around the clock to dig a drainage channel for the waters of the lake threatening 1.3 million people. Beijing thanks Taiwan for aid, and arrests those who criticise the government over the earthquake.

    Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Hundreds of soldiers have already removed 70,000 tonnes of earth and debris, and have dug at least one third of the channel to drain the waters of lake Tangjiashan, the largest of the 35 new lakes created by the quake.  Meanwhile, official sources admit that the schools in Sichuan  toppled by the earthquake were poorly constructed.

    A race against time is on to dig a drainage channel for the water, fed by the flow of the river Jian, before the pressure collapses the natural stone and earth dam, flooding the city of Mianyang and its 1.3 million inhabitants, about 190,000 of whom have already been evacuated to higher ground.  The rain is hampering the work, sticking the bulldozers in the mud and interfering with the helicopters.  According to Xinhua, the water is still 23 metres below the lower edge of the dam, and Zhou Hua, a Mianyang official, says that "the situation is under control".  The press have also reported, citing environmental protection sources, that the lake also contains 5,000 tonnes of toxic chemicals, like sulphuric and hydrochloric acid.

    Meanwhile, Lin Qiang, deputy inspector of Sichuan's education department, has for the first time acknowledged that corruption may have contributed to the poor construction of the schools that collapsed, burying more than 9,000 students and teachers, out of the total of about 68,500 confirmed victims (while there are 20,000 "missing").  The parents of the victims are protesting that the schools collapsed, while the surrounding buildings held up.

    Chen Baosheng, who is investigating the collapse for the construction ministry, has confirmed that the Juyuan middle school in Dujiangyan was poorly constructed.  Hundreds of young people died there. Chen says there was too little steel to reinforce the cement, and the support beams were set up badly, to the point that "it was entirely foreseeable that such a building would collapse in an earthquake.  It would've been strange if it hadn't".

    Today, Beijing expressed its "happiness" at receiving "generous aid" for the earthquake from its rival Taiwan, confirming the new political climate that saw yesterday's agreement to resume talks, suspended for about 10 years.  In recent days, Taipei had complained about the rejection of aid.  But today Yang Yi, spokesman for China's Taiwan Affairs Office, expressed thanks and confirmed that China will accept the 800 million yuan (80 million euros) in money and supplies offered by the Taiwan government and businessmen, many of whom work in China.

    In spite of the media's openness in providing news about the earthquake, it is still "dangerous" to criticise the authorities.  On May 28, Guo Quan was set free, after being detained for 10 days for articles critical toward the government.  Guo wrote that Beijing ignored the warning signs before the earthquake, and that the authorities should have been concerned immediately about the new lake, when the water was still low.

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    See also

    24/04/2009 CHINA
    Sichuan earthquake: government prohibits investigations into collapsed schools
    On May 12, 2008, about 10,000 students died in the schools, which collapsed like "tofu puddings," while the surrounding buildings remained standing. The government is telling parents asking for justice that there will be no investigations. The bitter resignation of those who have lost their only child.

    07/05/2009 CHINA
    Sichuan earthquake, an official source admits possibility schools were badly built
    A high ranking official speaks of the possibility of defects in school buildings. Meanwhile Chinese authorities report 5.335 students killed in collapse of schools, but experts say the toll is far higher. Ahead of the anniversary, police threaten foreign press for seeking to speak to parents of dead students.

    19/06/2008 CHINA
    Beijing says earthquake will make Chinese economy grow
    Government experts maintain that the work of reconstruction will have positive effects on the economy. Meanwhile, Beijing is arresting anti-corruption activists, is not responding to the parents of students who died beneath the schools, and is lodging accusations against donor companies. The "strange" management of the post-earthquake situation.

    13/01/2010 TAIWAN - HAITI
    Earthquake in Haiti: Hundreds, perhaps thousands of dead. Taiwan ready with aid
    "Total chaos" in the capital Port-au-Prince. Thousands of survivors roam the city in search of help. Haiti is the poorest country in the northern hemisphere. 78% live on less than $ 2 per day. In Taipei a team of 140 firefighters and 8 dogs, specializing in emergencies is ready.

    05/06/2008 CHINA
    Police guard collapsed schools to prevent parents' protests
    Almost one month after the earthquake, no one can explain why so many schools collapsed, while the parents of the students who died say they were constructed poorly. Now the police are breaking up their gatherings, and driving away the journalists. But one parent warns: "We are not afraid, we have already lost everything".



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