Chinese Flood Victims Loot Government Offices


2003-09-24
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Shaanxi officials 'concentrated on dealing with the flood'

Listen to the original broadcast in Mandarin

Several thousand farmers made homeless by floods in the northern Chinese province of Shaanxi ransacked government offices, looting disaster relief supplies, in protest at the government's failure to attend to their plight, RFA's Mandarin service reports.

"At the beginning, we all concentrated our efforts on dealing with the flood, so we didn't do a very solid job in other areas," an official at the Hua County Flood and Drought Relief Center told RFA. "Some people looted some aid... from the offices of the Civil Affairs Bureau," said the official, who asked to remain anonymous.

He said every official in the province was now paying close attention to flood relief efforts in the area.

"City officials even made a personal visit to our county to direct the process. The emphasis has been the settlement of flood victims and the rebuilding of roads, electricity supply, and the basic infrastructure."

However, he declined to verify an earlier report from Agence France-Presse that said thousands of flood victims had smashed windows, overturned cars, and looted aid. He said the situation had now stabilized, with those made homeless by the floods housed with relatives, in tents, with government agencies, and in storage facilities.

The flood control official said that a total of 120,000 people had been affected by flooding in Hua County, with many made homeless by building collapses after landslides. He said neighboring counties were in better shape, with fewer homeless and more relief workers to help them.

"Factories, villages, and county agencies outside of the disaster area all help with getting the flood victims settled," he said, adding that the refugees were now "basically settled."

An official at the Civil Affairs Bureau of nearby Weinan City contacted by RFA denied that looting had taken place, while phone calls to the Hua County police went unanswered.

Millions of people are affected by floods annually in China, which routinely cause thousands of deaths and devastate the countryside.

Often, rural areas are hardest hit because floodwaters are deliberately diverted to less densely populated areas to save major cities.

Refugees are particularly vulnerable to disease following floods, which flush out sewers, contaminate water sources, and circulate waterborne diseases such as snail fever. Effectiveness of disaster relief varies widely across China, depending on the level of scrutiny from authorities further up the chain of command.

Local officials and police officers often run their localities like small fiefdoms, levying arbitrary fees and taxes from the rural population.

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