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China says Quake Reconstruction to Take 3 Years

Chinese officials have said it will take three years to rebuild infrastructure and homes destroyed by the Sichuan earthquake. More than 55,000 people have been confirmed dead and nearly 25,000 are missing, and officials say aftershocks and rain are still a threat. Daniel Schearf reports from VOA's Beijing bureau.

Sichuan province's Vice Governor Li Chengyun told journalists Friday the May 12 earthquake collapsed over five million buildings and damaged about six million more.

China has asked for millions of tents but so far only has about 400,000. Li said they hoped to have temporary housing for 98 percent of those in need within a month.

He said the government was working to find suitable locations for building new homes, but said it would be three years before damaged infrastructure was repaired and permanent housing was constructed.

He said telecommunications were basically restored to most of the quake damaged areas, but over 1,300 towns were still without power and 33 roads unusable.

He says the rebuilding work faces a lot of difficulty in the region, where the mountains have been shaken loose in the earthquake and there have been more than 7,000 aftershocks.

The magnitude eight earthquake formed 33 "quake lakes" by cutting off and diverting rivers and streams.

Land and mud slides from aftershocks are raising the water levels in some of the lakes, increasing concerns they could burst their banks and flood nearby villages and towns.

Heavy rains are forecast to hit the region next week.

Nonetheless, Sichuan water resources official Zhu Bing says the lakes did not pose an immediate threat but were being watched very closely by some 200 experts.

He says if there is a strong aftershock or rainstorm there is a danger of collapse.

Chinese experts were also watching closely nuclear facilities in the region that were buried from the quake.

China's Vice Minister of Environmental Protection Wu Xiaoqing said Friday they were still trying to secure fifteen sources of radiation that were considered hazardous.

He says there are three buried in rubble and another twelve in dangerous buildings, which staff cannot go into. He says at present tests from the scene show there has not been any release of radiation.

Wu would not say what the sources of radiation were, but they were likely part of China's largest nuclear weapons facility, which is located in Sichuan.

Billions of dollars in cash and materials have been ear-marked by the Chinese government and donated in China and internationally for earthquake rescue, relief, and reconstruction efforts.

Reports say some relief materials were diverted by corrupt officials to the benefit of their family and friends.

Sichuan's deputy director of civil affairs said he was shocked by the reports and said they would in the future publish information online detailing how funds were used.