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China will spend more than 9 billion yuan ($1.25 billion; Dh4.56 billion) to rebuild wrecked houses, restore farms and help the poor pay for food and heat in areas where snowstorms killed at least 107 people, the government said on Thursday.
“As the situation develops, we will also increase the intensity of such help,” said Li Liguo, a deputy minister of civil affairs, at a nationally televised news conference.
Damage to food production should push up inflation that stands at decade-high levels but the impact should be modest, finance and civil affairs officials said at a news conference.
Snowstorms that began on January 10 killed at least 107 people, wrecked crops and houses and ripped down power lines. Trucking and rail transport were disrupted, causing shortages of fresh meat and vegetables in some areas and pushing up prices.
The economic impact was unusually severe because snowstorms blanketed a wide area of China’s temperate south, which usually gets little snow and has few preparations for severe weather.
The storms killed 69 million farm animals, damaged 1.3 million hectares (3.2 million acres) of vegetable, orange and other crops, and caused 354,000 houses to collapse, the officials said.
Damage is estimated at 111.1 billion yuan ($15.5 billion; Dh56.6 billion), according to the Civil Affairs Ministry.
The central government has allocated 9 billion yuan to help local authorities rebuild damaged houses and do other relief work and to help poor families pay for food and heat, said You Mingchun, director-general of the Finance Ministry’s department of social affairs.
You, speaking at the news conference with Li, said provincial and local governments also were expected to contribute but gave no details.
Urban families that qualify for government aid will get 15 yuan ($2; Dh7.3) per month for the next three months, while those in the countryside receive 10 yuan ($1.40; Dh5.11), You said.
The government hopes to have reconstruction work completed by late June, Li said.
The officials’ comments were the government’s most detailed account to date of the storm impact and recovery efforts.
The officials said food prices were stable after thousands of tons of vegetables and other supplies were rushed to disaster areas. But they said the disaster could worsen shortages that have pushed up China’s inflation rate in recent months.
“On the whole, the snow disaster will have some impact on food prices but will not have a dramatic impact,” said Huang Hai, an assistant commerce minister.
Beijing has suspended import duties on diesel to help cut costs as trucking in disaster areas resumes, Li said. He said materials imported for disaster relief also would be duty-free.
The Agriculture Ministry will spend 140 million yuan ($20 million; Dh73 million) to help farmers get back on their feet, said Zhang Yuxiang, a ministry official.
“Agriculture production was seriously affected by the snowstorm,” Zhang said. However, she said, “there will not be any dramatic disruption in agricultural production.”
The storms worsened the impact of coal shortages, forcing power plants, steel mills and factories to cut back or suspend production. There was no word on whether companies might be eligible for aid for lost production due to the storm.
Chinese insurers have paid more than 1.2 billion yuan ($165 million; Dh602.25 million) for snow-related deaths and damage, Xinhua reported on Wednesday. The total amount of pending insurance claims has not been released, but Xinhua said those from one province totaled 3 billion yuan ($420 million; Dha.5 billion). (AP)
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