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Update: China Earthquake Aftermath
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Update: China Earthquake Aftermath


Update: China Earthquake Aftermath

Update: China Earthquake Aftermath
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More than two weeks after a powerful earthquake struck Southwestern China, concern is focusing on fears of flooding and aftershocks. The number of dead and missing has climbed to nearly 90,000.


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Robert Smith.


And I'm Renee Montagne. When China's earthquake shook boulders down the mountains of Sichuan Province, the landslides bottled up rivers and created dozens of barrier lakes. Those lakes are threatening to overflow. Chinese authorities are rushing to evacuate more than 80,000 people today from Northern Sichuan Province, fearing a big lake there will flood.

In total, more than a million are at risk from floods, and that's just one development in this ongoing story. We reached NPR's Anthony Kuhn in Chengdu for an update.

And Anthony, how great is the risk of not just the flooding, but more aftershocks and landslides?

ANTHONY KUHN: I think that the danger is very serious, and so far they've been extremely lucky that the heavy rains that have predicted haven't come in yet. They've got about 1,800 soldiers now at this lake that's been formed. They're calling them quake lakes. And they've got explosives and they've got heavy machinery, and they're trying to make some sluice gates or channels to get this water out of the lake.

We're also dealing with very heavy aftershocks. I might say that the hotel is rocking as we speak right now. I'm no seismologist. I can't tell you how big it is, but the one that was just shaking my chair as we're speaking seemed to be quite big. We had a 6.4 magnitude aftershock over the weekend on Sunday that killed several people and collapsed about 70,000 homes, many of which were apparently already unstable. So this is - you know, it's still a very serious situation.

MONTAGNE: And separately, the Chinese government has announced it's waiving the long-standing one-child policy for parents. How will that work?

KUHN: This is very interesting. What they're saying is that people whose only children were killed in the quake or seriously injured can apply to have another child. And those who are above child-bearing age can get a certain amount of money and compensation.

Now this is in line with previous population-control policies, but it sends a very interesting message that the government is changing its direction from one that basically meddles in things like people's family planning to one that provides services. And I think it should at least help to minimize some of the anger at the government over things like schools collapsing and killing children.

MONTAGNE: And the government is also now recruiting volunteers to monitor the distribution of aid.

KUHN: Yes. I was just at a government office where the government is recruiting volunteers to monitor the distribution of aid, and they've had a centuries-old problem of corrupt officials embezzling relief funds.

But this again sends a very important message about political participation because, as you know in China, the Chinese government and the Communist Party have always sent the message that they will oversee themselves. So this is, again, a possibly very significant local reform.

MONTAGNE: Anthony, Thanks very much.

KUHN: Thank you very much.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Anthony Kuhn in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province.

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