China's government wants more help for disaster survivors

China's government appealed Thursday for the public to donate more to help survivors of flooding and earthquakes after disasters last year left a record number of people homeless. Typhoons and other disasters killed 2,475 people in China in 2005, the highest death toll since 2001, and forced 15.7 million from their homes, said Li Liguo, a deputy minister of civil affairs.

Li appealed to Chinese companies and the public to give more, urging them to take advantage of new tax breaks for donations. "We ask for greater support from charity-based organizations and from society," Li said at a news conference.

The appeal reflects Chinese government efforts in recent years to encourage private donations in an increasingly prosperous society where giving to charity is still rare. Thousands of charity centers have been set up in areas throughout China to accept donations of cash and clothing, Li said.

They collected about 4 million yuan (US$500,000; Ђ400,000) in cash in 2005, as well as millions of donated quilts, blankets and other goods, according to figures from the ministry.

China suffered an unusually destructive 2005 typhoon season, with eight storms in nine weeks inundating villages and causing tens of billions of yuan (billions of dollars; euros) in damage, Li said. Meanwhile, drought in the north and west of the country has left 70 million people hungry and the government is dispersing 1.2 billion yuan (US$149 million; Ђ123 million) in relief aid, Li said.

In the northwestern region of Xinjiang, a blizzard has forced 97,000 people from their homes, and the government is trying to arrange food, heating and care for their livestock, Li said, reports the AP. I.L.

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