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Govt mulls more compensation to quake victims

THE CARETAKER cabinet is considering increasing compensation for earthquake victims in northern Thailand whose houses were completely destroyed.

"The current rate of compensation sets the ceiling at only Bt33,000, which we believe is inadequate," caretaker Interior Minister Charupong Ruangsuwan said yesterday.

A 6.3-magnitude quake rocked northern provinces on Monday evening, causing one death and damaging more than 8,000 houses. About 12 houses were left in ruins.

Charupong said he had already instructed local administrative officials to complete surveys of the quake damage within 10 days.

In a related development, the Government Housing Bank has now offered a six-month interest-free period to its loan recipients whose houses were damaged by the quake. It is also offering soft loans to those who need to repair or reconstruct their houses.

Charupong said relevant officials must pay attention to the mental rehabilitation of quake victims, too.

"Kamnans and village heads must also boost the morale of local people," he said.

The Mental Health Department's teams are now out in action in quake-hit areas to help victims cope with symptoms like depression, anxiety, loss of appetite, and insomnia.

The caretaker government has approved a Bt500-million budget to deal with the impact of the earthquake. Since the main quake, more than 330 aftershocks have been felt. Some measured up to 5.9 on the Richter scale.

In Chiang Rai's Phan district, Phanphittayakhom School director Sanong Sujarit plans to raise funds to dismantle the quake-damaged building in his school's compound.

The damage has badly impacted upon the building, turning it into a danger zone.

"For safety reasons, I want the demolition to take place fast," said Sanong.

"If we wait for the government budget, we may have to wait for quite some time," he said yesterday.

The new semester is due to start next Friday, and the school still plans to conduct class in unaffected buildings.

Donations to the school can be made via its bank account No 5220345795, Krungthai Bank. The school has 2,368 students.

Education Minister Chaturon Chaisang said the quake had damaged 73 schools, with damage estimated at over Bt150million.

The National Office of Buddhism has found that the earthquake has damaged 43 temples: 35 in Chiang Rai, four in Chiang Mai, two in Phayao, and two in Nan.

"We will need a budget of about Bt49 million for repair and |assistance," the office's director-general, Nopparat Benjawatananun, said.

He added that his office now planned to conduct earthquake training for 4,000 temple abbots.

Among the hard-hit temples is the world-famous Wat Rongkhun, which has established itself as a landmark in Chiang Rai.

The temple's founder, Chalermchai Kositpipat, who is also a national artist, said it could take two years to fully restore the temple.

Wat Rongkhun reopened to visitors for the first time since the quake yesterday.

"But we have not yet reopened the temple's main hall," Chalermchai added.




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