China quake despair turns to anger

Leaders brace for political backlash amid allegations of inadequate construction.

    Reports have said close to 7,000 schools were destroyed across Sichuan [EPA]

    An angry tide is sweeping across China's Sichuan province as survivors begin to question the quality of structures that crumbled during the massive earthquake 10 days ago.


    Across the devastated region, parents carrying framed photographs of their children waited for news as heavy machinery dug through the rubble.

    The search for bodies continues, as the Chinese government confirms that the death toll has risen to at least 51,000.

    In depth: China quake

    Map: Quake disaster zone

    Pictures: Quake devastation

    China's fast response

    Video: Grief turns to anger

    Video: Homeless cramped in temporary shelters

    Video: One family's loss in
    Sichuan earthquake

    Guo Weimin, a cabinet spokesman, said on Thursday that the toll had reached 51,151, with at least 29,328 missing and nearly 300,00 injured.


    As the reality sinks in, survivors want local government officials to explain why so many buildings - particularly schools - collapsed in the 8.0 magnitude tremor.

    Plea for tents


    Chinese leaders, in a move to contain the political aftershocks of the deadly quake, promised a huge rebuilding fund, and reined in the media to try to keep despair from turning to anger in the disaster zone.


    On Thursday, Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier, announced a cut in national spending to create a $10bn fund for recovery and reconstruction in Sichuan.

    The government also renewed an international appeal  for help in housing some of the 5 million homeless survivors.


    Qin Gang, a foreign ministry spokesman, said: "We need more than 3.3 million tents."

    He also said that 400,000 tents have already been delivered.

    The authorities now face the daunting task of rebuilding towns from scratch.


    Al Jazeera's Tony Cheng, reporting from Sichuan, says local officials are learning the lesson that fast and cheap is not always best.


    Crumbling schools 

    About 7,000 schools collapsed [Reuters]

    The Dong Qi Middle School in the town of Han Wang collapsed like many other schools. Now there is no hope of finding any survivors.


    A grieving man who lost his son is angry with the local government.


    "What I want to say is that I'm so disappointed in the local authorities," he said.


    "They didn't pay attention to the quality of the schools ... they didn't care about the students' lives."


    Our correspondent reports that many of the buildings were built of bricks and mortar, while those made of concrete lacked the steel framework, or quality material, to withstand the quake.


    "Many of the hardest hit towns were high in the mountains of Sichuan," Andreas Karras, an architect, told Al Jazeera.


    However Karras said the cleanup operation was already in full swing and "happening remarkably fast".


    China is now left with the task of searching for thousands of bodies and caring for millions of survivors made homeless in the earthquake.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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