Millions raised but we haven't seen a penny, say storm victims

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 August, 2006, 12:00am

Death toll from Saomai rises to 319 with discovery of more bodies in worst-hit city

Fujian authorities - under fire from Typhoon Saomai's victims for offering too little help, too late - say they need more time before they can offer any further relief.

Speaking six days after the typhoon - the worst in 50 years - ravaged the province, Wen Chonghai, director of the Fujian Civil Affairs Department's disaster relief office, said the organisation's main mission was to continue rescue operations, and that aid efforts would gradually follow.

'The government has raised millions of yuan to help relief efforts. But detailed measures are still being examined. We will launch aid programmes as soon as possible,' Mr Wen said.

He refused to give further details.

The official death toll on the mainland from Saomai rose to 319 yesterday, after another 24 bodies were discovered in Fuding, the worst-hit city, state media reported.

Fuding party secretary Tang Yi told Xinhua it was not clear how many civilians had been killed or injured because rescue workers were hampered by a lack of funding and equipment.

The death toll from the storm is expected to climb, with residents of the city's Shacheng district suggesting that more than 1,000 people died in their community, a particularly hard-hit area.

The residents have complained that the government has done little to save lives or offer relief.

'Almost everything of value in Shacheng went with the typhoon. All the fish and the seafood pots have gone. The township is out of commission, with no power, no food and no water supplies,' Shacheng fisherman Xia Mingyang said.

'People are homeless and are sleeping in the open as they cry for their missing relatives. My heart is broken.

'People even had to find 3,000 yuan to pay to cremate their relatives. If not, no one would take care of the bodies.'

Mr Xia said officials had even stopped residents talking to journalists from other cities.

He urged donors to go to the township and help people directly to avoid supplies being diverted. 'So far, we haven't received one penny of relief from the government,' he said. 'Some departments handed instant noodles to us. They said the food was funded by the Red Cross and valued at 80,000 yuan. I don't think it cost that much.'

Mr Xia said the local government should provide relief money or offer low-interest loans to residents as soon as possible to help them rebuild their lives.

'More than 99 per cent of Shacheng people depend on fishing and aquaculture. We have lost our livelihoods,' he said. 'We have to rely on help from the government ... We have no money. All we can do is to become migrant workers or stay here and wait to die.'

Fujian flood and drought control chief Yang Zhiying told the local Strait City Daily newspaper that the provincial government had set aside 24 million yuan for rescue efforts.

The category-five 'super' typhoon destroyed more than 59,000 houses in Fujian, Zhejiang and Jiangxi , and caused at least 11 billion yuan in economic losses as of Friday.