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Friday, 4 February, 2000, 09:48 GMT
New year appeal for quake survivors

Earthquake rescue teams More than 2,000 died in last September's quake


By Francis Markus in Taipei

As Taiwan prepares to mark Chinese new year, an official in the part of the island worst affected by last year's devastating earthquake has made an appeal for ordinary Taiwanese to spend the festival with earthquake survivors.

Quake in Taiwan
Peng Pai Hsien, head of Natou district, said victims of the disaster needed moral support. He was concerned that people without families could gradually die of loneliness.

The quake, which struck the island last September, killed more than 2,000 people and left many thousands homeless. More than four months later, the psychological impact is still making itself strongly felt.

From the initial phase of relief efforts, focusing on building temporary shelters and schools, attention is increasingly turning to the provision of counselling for those still distressed after the disaster.

Emotional comfort


Survivors and rescue workers Many survivors are still struggling to come to terms with their ordeal
As Chinese new year celebrations gather pace, traditionally bringing families together, Mr Peng called for people to come and spend time over the holiday with those still in temporary housing, to provide them with emotional comfort.

He cited the experience of Japan where, even five years after the massive Kobe earthquake, a number of people remaining in temporary camps are described by the authorities as having died of loneliness.

He said he was afraid that such a syndrome could gradually emerge among the disaster survivors in central Taiwan.

The island's political leaders have been quick to realise the importance of showing their commitment to supporting the earthquake victims.

Local officials in the disaster zone are hoping that ordinary people will also spare some time for them over the Chinese new year.

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See also:
04 Feb 00 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Huge exodus for new year
28 Sep 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Taiwan quake rescue criticised
29 Sep 99 |  The Economy
Taiwan counts quake losses
27 Sep 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Taiwan mourns for 2,000 dead
21 Sep 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Building codes spare Taiwan
28 Sep 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Chinese threaten Taiwan

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