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Chinese Premier says getting life back to normal now priority for mudslide-hit Zhouqu

ZHOUQU, Gansu, Aug. 23 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao remarked over the weekend that the Zhouqu relief effort had shifted focus from rescue work to helping survivors get their lives back in order.

Wen made the remarks while revisiting the mudslide-stricken Zhouqu county in northwest Gansu province on Saturday and Sunday. Wen's first visit was on Aug. 8 when the disaster struck.

Wen said the most pressing task was to help the survivors get on with their lives, which meant providing enough food, clothing and medical care to them as well as sheltering the homeless. Preparations for the freezing winter also needed to be concentrated on.

Wen ordered measures to be carried out to ensure no epidemic outbreaks and that the blocked river be drained quickly. He urged that schools resume in early September.

Wen also urged close surveillance around the barrier lakes and geologically unstable areas.

Additionally, Wen stressed, reconstruction would be the priority for Zhouqu now and a period of time to come.

Wen said in order to rebuild the region in a scientific manner, disaster assessment should be done in the first place. He ordered an assessment of the death toll and damage to the infrastructure and buildings, the results of which would be made public.

Wen ordered to give priority to building apartments for the survivors. He said flats which could be repaired should be fixed by the end of this year, so that more people could return home by winter.

Wen stressed that the reconstruction should take into account the environment and absolutely avoid locations with geographical disaster hazard.

Wen also ordered efforts to protect the ecological environment along Bailong river. He said more efforts should go into replacing arable land with forests, banning logging in certain areas and preventing water erosion.

Wen also urged to form a lasting mechanism to guard against further geological disasters.

Wen said reconstruction would mainly be funded by the central government, supported by social donations and bank loans. Government at all levels in the mudslide-hit areas should closely monitor the raising, distribution, and use of funds, and welcome public supervision.

Wen visited a makeshift shelter in Zhouqu No. 1 middle school accommodating over 700 people, the barrier lake and Bailong river, as well as two hardest-hit villages where a large number of residents and buildings had been buried.

A massive rain-triggered mudslide hit Zhouqu in northwest China's Gansu Province on Aug. 8, causing at least 1,435 deaths and 330 were still missing.

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