Thursday, May 15, 2008




China is coming to grips as the full horror of the disaster began to emerge.

Rescue teams who punched into the quake's stricken epicentre reported whole towns all but wiped off the map, spurring frantic efforts to bring emergency relief to the survivors.

Worst hit were schools in many districts, and as parents are coming to terms with reality are now screaming at the government and pointing fingers at the poor construction of schools.

As more children were pulled on Wednesday from the rubble of their schools, questions emerged over whether corruption and shoddy construction were to blame for taking such a heavy toll of young lives.

In one of the worst cases, hundreds of students were feared buried in the debris of the Juyuan Middle School - where more than 50 bodies have already been pulled out.

At a newly built primary school that collapsed in Dujiangyan, just a flew kilometres from the Juyuan Middle School, 100 students and teachers were pulled out of the rubble but more than 100 remained buried on Wednesday.

At the main building of Beichuan Middle School in Mianyang city a little further to the north in Sichuan province, at least 1,000 students and teachers were dead and missing, the state-run Xinhua news agency said.

Grief gave way to finger-pointing as it was noted that other buildings nearby had withstood the quake.

"I'll tell you why the school collapsed," said an elderly man standing outside Juyuan Middle School. "It was shoddily built. Someone wanted to save money."

The man gave voice to the widespread suspicion throughout China that the greed of builders and government officials had put children at risk.

"We cannot afford not to raise uneasy questions about the structural quality of school buildings," the China Daily newspaper said in an editorial.

It said authorities should act with "firm resolve" if investigations indicate that the school collapses were due to "poor-quality construction or the builders' shoddy compliance with building rules."…CNA

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