Sichuan quake: more than 19,000 people died in shoddily built schools
For the first time the government provides official data. But there is nothing new with regard s to investigations into shoddy construction. The government plans to spend almost US$ 440 billion in reconstruction but after six months the homeless have to prepare for winter in makeshift shelters with scarce supplies.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Schools that collapsed in the 12 May earthquake killed more than 19,000 people, nearly a quarter of the total 80,000 deaths, Wei Hong, vice governor of Sichuan province said, adding that the toll was still provisional. He did not say whether the total was only students, or also included the many teachers killed with their pupils.

The 7.9 magnitude quake wiped out almost every school in the area. In many instances shoddily built classrooms collapsed whilst nearby buildings withstood the tremors (rubbles of a Dujiangyan school pictured).

Parents blamed local officials of corruption for embezzling funds at the expense of building safety.

Local authorities tried to muzzle them by offering them “compensation” in exchange for their silence.

But nothing new has emerged yet in the matter. Wei just said that the issue would be solved in the appropriate manner by the government.

Ma Zongjin, chairman of an official damage-assessment committee, said in September that more than 1,000 schools had suffered from poor construction or being built on fault lines.

In the meantime reconstruction is proceeding at a slow pace.

Sichuan is expected to spend 3 trillion yuan (US9 billion) by 2010, partly from donations.

Plans include 4.5 million new houses, 51,000 kilometres of roads, 5,500 kilometres of railroad, as well as thousands of hospitals, schools and public buildings.

But many projects have just started now, forcing millions of people to prepare themselves for the coming cold winter in the mountains in tents and other makeshift shelters, often with not enough blankets, clothes and food.