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Students in SW China quake-hit city begin school year in tents
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16:34, September 08, 2008

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More than 35,000 students in a city in southwest China's quake-hit Sichuan Province started the new semester in tents and makeshift classrooms on Monday, about one week after their peers nationwide began the new school year.

Altogether, 12,099 students resumed classes in tents while another 23,584 attended in undamaged or temporary classrooms converted from student sports and entertainment centers in Panzhihua, according to Kong Wei, the local education bureau head. The city was one of the worst hit in the Aug. 30 quake.

The 6.1-magnitude tremor had killed at least 38 people in Sichuan and Yunnan provinces as of Sept. 3.

"The earthquake has caused damages to 183 out of the 598 local schools, leaving above one-fifth of the city's students without safe classrooms before the new school year," Kong said.

The city requested tents after the earthquake and was immediately overwhelmed by the nation's donation enthusiasm.

In addition, China promised to provide more portable houses to ensure all students in the city could move out of tent classes before winter.

"In the seven days when we were left with nowhere to study, I read text books by myself," said Sun Yiwen, a grade nine student. He was among 750 students relocated to a nearby school for members of the Communist Party of China from the Datian Middle School where the quake had devastated almost all the buildings.

"I am confident in myself for the new semester because it is almost as convenient as where I used to study."

However, students in Huili County in neighboring Yunnan weren't as lucky.

The county, which has been plagued by continuous aftershocks, postponed the start of its new semester to the end of October for the lack of prefabricated buildings and tents to build temporary classes and dormitories.

In total, 58 affected schools required 150,000 square meters of prefab buildings and 140 tents, said Hu Kun, the county's Communist Party secretary.

The county initially postponed the openings to Monday after 20 percent of its school buildings were damaged.

The quake affected 153 of the 290 primary and middle schools in Huili, damaging 2,520 school houses and causing 140 million yuan (20.5 million U.S. dollars) in losses, according to the county education bureau.


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