Hundreds of thousands survive under ramshackle roofs made of plastic sheets In camps across the disaster zone, victims of last week's earthquake are attempting to bring a semblance of normality into their shattered lives. One of the largest temporary camps has been set up on the streets of Jiangyou, where about 10,000 people from nearby Beichuan and Pingwu have been evacuated - two of the towns hardest hit by the worst disaster to befall China in 30 years. More than half of them still sprawl by the roadside under ramshackle self-made shelters fashioned from plastic sheeting, their sides open to the elements. A few sleep in cement sewerage pipes abandoned by the roadside. But officials and local volunteers are working hard to move more survivors into large, family-sized tents where they can regain some basic privacy and begin to rebuild their lives. 'It's not too bad - but it's not home is it?' said a survivor surnamed Zhao, from Changjiaba, a village near Beichuan. He said his family was much happier after moving into their tent, where 10 people now sleep cheek to cheek. Outside, women sit chatting and washing clothes in plastic buckets, which they then hang on lines strung up across their canvas homes. Giggling children chase one another from tent to tent, hiding behind the door flaps. However, a shortage of tents and blankets remains the most immediate problem facing many of the refugees, according to volunteers. The local government sends rain warnings by text message so people can prepare their shelters before getting soaked. 'There are still not enough tents to go around, so we had to make our own. I don't know when we will be given a proper tent,' sighed a Jiangyou native surnamed Zhou, pointing at his rickety home made from sticks and plastic. The Ministry of Civil Affairs on Monday admitted it needed more tents to provide shelter for the 4.8 million people left homeless by the quake. About 280,000 tents had already been delivered to the affected areas. The government has bought a further 700,000 tents, and manufacturers are producing them around the clock. In contrast to the shanty-town appearance of the homemade shelters, the rows of blue tents are neat and orderly - a sign, perhaps, they are expected to be there for some time. At the main tent camp, clinics, food stations and government information tents are all clearly signposted. Toilets - wooden boards placed over a hole in the ground - have been set back from the camp in fields and are regularly disinfected. A large sign slung over one tent reads: 'Please pay attention to hygiene conditions.' Liu Xia, a doctor from Jiangyou hospital, who is manning a simple first aid tent, said: 'The medical situation is basically fine. The biggest demand is medicine for colds. But we are short of sterilisation fluids and disinfectants.' The camp works only because of the determined efforts of volunteers - many of them local high-school students, some as young as 13. Local townsfolk have set up a field kitchen with three enormous woks, from which they serve noodles and fried vegetables to several hundred refugees a day. 'I grew these cucumbers myself,' said local farmer Mr Li, pointing at the panniers of cucumbers hanging off his motorbike, which he was handing to the volunteer cooks for free. 'When they finish eating them, I will come back with more.' Local volunteer Wang Deigui said: 'The government hasn't done much here - they're too busy. Everything is being done by people like us.' Food and water provided by the government is supplemented for free by locals, who are also preparing to open temporary schools for the children running around the camp. Another volunteer, surnamed Duan, a former military policeman, was putting his training to good use. 'The government will do its best to satisfy people's needs, but the scale of the problem is too large. At the moment, we are doing our best to fill the hole,' he said. Yet, for all the volunteers' goodwill and efforts, bewildered refugees must eventually rely on the government help to restore their devastated lives. 'Things are still so chaotic,' Mr Zhao said. 'We basically have no money. Some people have already started returning to our village, but I have no idea what we will do next. I expect the government will help, but I don't know.' A refugee from Pingwu was more confident: 'Of course the government will give us money to rebuild our lives. We don't know when we will be able to go home, but we will wait and see what the government tells us.' No one knows how long that will take - nor whether Beijing will provide new homes or expects farmers to build their own. Chang Bangyin, a friend of Mr Zhao's from Changjiaba village, said: 'I believe our lives will be back to normal after a year or so. We have already suffered the biggest disaster, so we are not scared now.'