Chinese Quake Victims Say Relief Funds Aren't Getting Through

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Damaged houses are seen following an earthquake in Yunnan's Ludian county, Aug. 4, 2014.
Damaged houses are seen following an earthquake in Yunnan's Ludian county, Aug. 4, 2014.

Survivors of a 6.5-magnitude earthquake in the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan say they are getting little help from the government, in spite of pledges of U.S.$97 million in disaster relief funds.

The Aug. 3 earthquake was the strongest to strike the region in 14 years and left more than 600 people dead, according to official figures.

But residents of Lehong township in worst-hit Ludian county are increasingly angry over a failure to deliver promised daily subsistence payments, as well as a lack of help with acres of farmland submerged in mud after the quake.

"Our fields were totally destroyed in the earthquake, so we have no way to become self-sufficient," Lehong resident A Jin told RFA on Tuesday.

"This means we are unusually dependent on government handouts."

Locals complain

A Jin said hundreds of quake victims had gathered outside the complaints office of the county government in the Ludian county town at the weekend, in a bid to spur officials into action.

"The local people went to the government to demand the daily subsistence payments they are supposed to be making to us," A Jin said. "We need money to live on."

He said officials had promised the issue would be dealt with within five days. "We don't know if this is genuine or not," he added.

Meanwhile, a second Ludian county resident who gave the nickname A Qiang said local people had run into similar problems there, too.

"The government is holding our money hostage," A Qiang said. "They aren't handing out our payments."

He said officials in his hometown of Longtoushan had sparked public anger by listing homes for demolition that were undamaged.

"We have homes to live in, but they are forcing people to demolish them," he said.

A Jin said payments had been made in the immediate aftermath of the quake, but later stopped, after most journalists had left the region.

"This is earthquake relief money, but we haven't seen any of it for nearly two weeks," he said.

"Everyone here is saying that the officials have made off with it, and that they've sold off the grain as well."

Calls to the Longtoushan and Lehong township government offices rang unanswered during office hours on Tuesday.

However, an official who answered the phone at the Ludian county government complaints bureau said the villagers' complaint had already been acted upon.

"It's all been dealt with now," the official said. "The matter was settled on the same day [as the protest]."

Government compensation

The government has pledged daily compensation of 25 yuan (U.S.$4) to all quake victims for the first 10 days, followed by 15 yuan a day for a further three months, according to official media reports.

Households will also receive 20,000 yuan, (U.S.$3,250) in compensation for each family member who died in the quake.

More than a million people were affected by the quake, which left more than 3,000 injured and 80,000 homes reduced to rubble, with a further 130,000 damaged.

Some 230,000 people are currently living in emergency accommodations in tents or public buildings.

Reported by Lin Jing for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.





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