China Earthquake Reconstruction to Cost $147 Billion

China's government estimates it will cost $147 billion to rebuild from the massive earthquake that struck the central part of the country in May, according to state media.

The National Development and Reform Commission's draft rebuilding plan published this week includes new homes for more than 3 million rural households, as well as the creation of jobs for about 1 million people, the China Daily newspaper reported Wednesday.

Some 3,400 primary schools need to be rebuilt in Sichuan and neighboring Gansu and Shaanxi provinces, the state-run newspaper reported. Another 2,600 schools needed to be strengthened, it said.

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Thousands of children died when their shoddily built schools collapsed in the earthquake. The collapses became an emotionally charged and politically sensitive issue when the parents of dead children staged protests demanding investigations.

Nearly 70,000 people died in the May 12 quake and 5 million were left homeless in three hard-hit provinces — China's worst natural disaster in a generation.

The quake caused more than $122 billion in direct economic losses, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Sichuan officials have said they want to rebuild communities within three years, and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has said rebuilding in the other two provinces should be complete by 2010.

Soon after the quake, China set up a $10 billion reconstruction fund — compared with the $40 billion spent on the Olympic Games that are under way in the capital, Beijing.

The quake threw about 1.4 million farmers into poverty, China Daily reported.

The Chinese government has said it plans no large-scale relocation of people from the quake zone.