China aftershock destroys 71,000 homes; 1 killed

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Down the street, retiree Huang Huimei, 75, and her husband were busy stacking pots, pans, chairs and bed boards in a pile for movers to take to the provincial capital of Chengdu, where her son lives. Her building remained standing but had serious cracks and was not safe for habitation.

She had spent most of the time since the quake caring for her 95-year-old mother.

“I don’t know if we’ll be back,” she said as her husband handed her part of a cooking stove through the front window of their ground floor apartment. “These apartments weren’t that safe before the quake. My husband worked for the coal mine and it’s supposed to rebuild the company apartments. But who knows when.”

More than 15 million homes were destroyed in the disaster, and the Chinese government has appealed for tents to help shelter survivors.

Across town, about 10 families were living in makeshift shelters of picnic table umbrellas and nylon tarps draped over simple wood frames, pitched in a muddy lot that used to be a food market. Chickens pecked at watermelon rinds, while the survivors used plastic basins to wash and piles of scrap wood for cooking fires.

“The local government officials have done a good job for themselves. They’re living up there,” said a camp resident who pointed to a neat row of tents up a hill.

“They didn’t do such a good job here where the regular folks have to live,” said the man, who would only give his surname, Wang.

Meanwhile, one of two pandas missing since the quake from a major preserve for the endangered animals in Wolong, near the epicenter, was sighted today, Xinhua said. The panda, named Xixi, disappeared before staff could reach it, but was believed safe, the report said. The search will continue tomorrow.

The pandas’ home at the world-famous Wolong reserve was badly damaged in the quake and five staff members were killed.

Eight pandas from the reserve are spending the next six months at the Beijing Zoo on a special Olympics visit that was planned long before the quake. The animals were flown yesterday afternoon by special plane to Beijing from Chengdu.

Associated Press writers William Foreman in Hanwang and Henry Sanderson in Beijing contributed to this report.

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