Crowds Riot on Chinese Island Over Lack of Typhoon Help

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A house damaged by Typhoon Rammasun in Wenchang, south China's Hainan province, July 22, 2014.
A house damaged by Typhoon Rammasun in Wenchang, south China's Hainan province, July 22, 2014.

Residents of the southwestern Chinese province of Guangxi have hit out at local officials for doing nothing to help victims of the deadly Typhoon Rammasun following riots by victims over the weekend.

More than 1,000 residents of Weizhou island near Guangxi's Beihai city clashed with police outside government offices after people left homeless, or without power, food or water by the typhoon began rioting in anger on Saturday, residents told RFA.

Rioters smashed up and set fire to government offices, and overturned a tourist bus in anger at being left for days with no more than a few replacement roof tiles and a few bottles of springwater, local residents told RFA.

Typhoon Rammasun, the strongest typhoon to hit China in four decades, destroyed tens of thousands of homes, damaged roads and ports, and cut electricity and water supplies in southern Chinese cities. It packed winds of up to 216 kph (130 mph), according to the China Meteorological Administration.

Many protesters in Weizhou island were demanding to know what happened to some 500,000 yuan (U.S.$80,900) allocated to the management committee in emergency relief funds, local sources said.

"It was utter mayhem," a Weizhou islander surnamed He told RFA on Monday, adding that several hundred police were dispatched to stop the rioting, sparking further peaceful protests outside township government offices on Sunday and Monday.

He said local residents were angry that officials demanded bribes for any building supplies when residents tried to rebuild after the storm.

"We wanted to get some construction materials but they wouldn't let us, because you have to give them money and cigarettes," he said. "If you get a truckload of cement from Beihai, it costs 400 yuan [U.S. $65], but if you buy it from the management committee here it's 900 yuan [U.S. $146], or else they won't give you a permit," he said.

"We don't have any money, so what can we do?"

Officials watching porn

Protesters who stormed government offices were also enraged to find officials watching pornography, he said.

"The officials were watching porn," he said. "Their computers were full of it, but they hadn't carried out any emergency relief operations in several days."

"All they did was get the army in to clear away fallen trees."

He said the villagers had been pushed to violence by dire circumstances in the wake of the storm, according to China's civil affairs ministry.

"There was nothing else we could do," He said. "They sent in the riot police from Beihai...but they couldn't arrest anyone because the villagers all ran away."

"The police were trying to work at night; they didn't dare to go around detaining people in broad daylight," he said.

A second island resident surnamed Zhou said local officials had done nothing to help people left homeless or without electricity after Rammasun hit China on July 19.

"Everything you do requires their approval," Zhou said. "You can only rebuild or repair your home if you have the approval of the management committee."

"That's why people started rioting."

Repeated calls to the Weizhou Island management committee offices rang unanswered during office hours on Monday.

An official who answered the phone at the Beihai municipal propaganda department said they didn't know about the riot on Weizhou Island.

"We are currently organizing the emergency relief effort, and we are still devoting all of our resources to it," the official said.

Nine days without power

A third Weizhou islander surnamed Su said local residents had been left for more than nine days with no reliable power or water supplies, while many of their homes had been made unsafe by damage from the typhoon.

"There have been no announcements [regarding the power or water supply]," Su said. "There are a lot of tile-roofed houses on our island which are unliveable after the typhoon."

"The islanders wanted to carry out repairs themselves, without expecting any help from the government, but the management committee wouldn't let us have the building materials," he said.

"How could we sleep at night in potentially dangerous buildings? Of course people were going to protest."

China's ministry of civil affairs said 62 people were killed and a further 21 were still missing after Rammsun slammed into southern China, bringing gale-force winds, torrential rain and flooding in its wake, affecting more than 11 million people in Guangdong, Hainan, Yunnan and Guangxi.

More than 862,000 people were evacuated from their homes, while 261,000 were left in urgent need of basic necessities, official media reported.

The typhoon also caused direct economic losses of 38.48 billion yuan (U.S.$6.23 billion), hitting roads, water, power and telecommunications in the worst-hit areas, Xinhua news agency said.

Reported by Lin Jing for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Yang Fan for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.





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