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Chiang Rai

Quake-hit villagers still in fear

Many in north remain in temporary shelters two weeks on

NEARLY two weeks after the 6.3-magnitude earthquake that rocked the country's north, many people in a hard-hit village in Chiang Rai province remain too frightened to move back to their homes. Several children in the north, who start their new semester today, will have to study in temporary classrooms.

"Locals here are still living in a shelter," Narong Kijpitak, the head of Ban Pa Lan village, said yesterday.

He said 90 of the 107 houses in Ban Pa Lan sustained damage from a quake that also caused a long crack in the middle of the village. "The crack is more than 100 metres long. Mud gushed out of the crack too, prompting locals to flee en masse."

Although the mud has stopped bubbling up, most locals continue to live in either provided shelter or in tents.

More than 700 aftershocks have taken place since the quake. The tremors have hit several schools hard. Apichart Jeerawuth, secretary-general of the Office of the Basic Education Commission (Obec), said 61 schools were damaged and engineering teams would take about one more week to inspect all affected schools and determine their safety.

"The hardest hit to date has been Mae Lao Witthayakom School. All three of its buildings will have to be brought down," he said.

He believes Obec will have to find well over Bt500 million to repair or rebuild quake-hit schools.

"We have some Bt100 million only. So we will need to request Bt400 million more from the central budget," he said.

Phanphittayakom School director Sanong Sujarit said he was worried about one dangerous building at his institute.

"Engineers have told us that the damaged building is dangerous," he said.

Although the affected building is cordoned off, he remains worried about the safety of students and teachers. He is not sure when the budget for the demolition of the building will be approved.

Both Mae Lao Witthayakom and Phanphittayakom schools are in Chiang Rai province, which bore the brunt of the quake and aftershocks. Chiang Rai Governor Pongsak Wangsamer said officials continued to survey damaged properties as the aftershocks continued.

A 4.4-magnitude quake was recorded at 12.23am yesterday. Smaller tremors followed hours later.

"At this point, more than 8,000 houses have been damaged by the recent tremors," he said, adding that the government had transferred Bt184 million to his provincial authority to give financial assistance to victims.

Owners of each damaged house will get no more than Bt33,000 in compensation.


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