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China Promises $1 Billion for Snow Disaster Recovery


China will spend more than $1.2 billion to rebuild wrecked homes, restore farms and help the poor pay for food and heat in areas where recent snowstorms killed more than 100 people. VOA's Stephanie Ho reports from Beijing.

Severe snowstorms that started in mid-January are being blamed for at least 107 deaths in China.

The harsh weather destroyed crops, wrecked power lines and cut off transportation for a wide region in central and southern parts of the country, where the winter weather is usually temperate.

Chinese officials in Beijing gave reporters their initial assessment of the cost and extent of the damages.

Commerce Ministry official Huang Hai indicated one effect could be to push up inflation, which is already at a decade-high level.

He says this year's snowstorms will definitely cause the prices of foodstuffs for ordinary Chinese people to rise.

The storm destroyed hundreds of thousand of hectares of crops and killed 69 million farm animals. The Agriculture Ministry's Zhang Yuxiang said the Chinese government is providing $20 million, seed and technical support to help farmers get back on their feet.

She says another concern is preventing the outbreak of what she described as a secondary disaster, the outbreak of diseases in the aftermath of the snowstorms.

Official numbers say at least 354,000 houses collapsed because of the weather.

Li Liguo, at the Ministry of Civil Affairs, says Chinese officials hope to complete their count by February.

He says the ministry hopes to finish all repair and restoration work by June.

Meanwhile, authorities say urban families that qualify for government aid will get about $2 each, per month, for the next three months. Qualifying residents in rural areas will receive a little less.

The storms worsened the impact of coal shortages in China, forcing power plants, steel mills and factories to cut back or suspend production. The officials did not say whether companies would also be eligible for aid from lost production due to the storms.