China will need to rebuild whole towns and villages from scratch to rehouse the millions displaced by last week's earthquake, a task which could take three years, a top provincial official said on Friday.
Eleven days after the 7.9 magnitude quake shook the mountainous
Some towns in the earthquake zone in southwestern
The known death toll from the quake already exceeds 55,000, but more bodies are expected to be found as the debris from the dozens of flattened cities, towns and villages is cleared.
With the rainy season due within weeks, there is an urgency to their work. The government's main concern is that aftershocks and heavy rain could cause secondary disasters such as flashfloods and landslides.
"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," Li Chengyun, vice governor of Sichuan, told a news conference in Beijing.
Relief workers are also concerned that poor hygiene could cause disease outbreaks. Li said this was a "peak period for outbreaks of diseases," describing the situation as very grim.
"We will strive to provide safe, economical and convenient temporary housing for 98 percent of the residents within the next month," Li said.
"The priority work in the reconstruction is to find proper locations for rural residents to build houses. We will strive to make such village houses ready for them before winter comes."
"QUAKE LAKE" DANGER
Premier Wen Jiabao, making his second visit to the disaster zone, visited hospitals and tents sheltering quake refugees on Friday in Beichuan county, one of the worst-hit areas.
In a temporary shelter for the
Wen, a trained geologist, had earlier ordered rescue workers to eliminate the danger of dammed rivers, waterways and bulging newly formed lakes "through engineering means" while swiftly evacuating people in their path.
The May 12 quake, the worst to hit
In Hongguang, in the province's northeast, the quake caused both sides of a valley to slide, burying three villages and 900 people. The
The Qingzhu landslides have formed five lakes, the biggest of which is almost 30 metres (100 feet) deep. A flood control team monitors the natural dams constantly, for fear they will burst and unleash a wall of water on the valley below.
The more than 30 "quake lakes" were safe for the moment and residents under threat had been evacuating, Zhu Bing, a
"There is a possibility of (the dam) collapsing entirely in the case of a strong aftershock or rainstorm," Zhu said of the Tangjiashan barrier lake in Beichuan which Wen toured on Thursday.
Heavy rain is forecast, making life even more difficult for rescuers, relief workers and the 5.48 million either living in tents or under makeshift cover as they mourn their dead.