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43 officials punished over quake relief: state media

by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) June 23, 2008
China has received more than 1,000 complaints about official misconduct in handling earthquake relief and has punished 43 officials, state-run Xinhua news agency said on Monday.

Among the officials, 12 of the most serious offenders were removed from their posts, it quoted the country's top anti-graft official, Ma Wen, as saying.

However, the nation's top auditor Liu Jiayi was quoted saying that no corruption or misappropriation of quake-relief funds had been found to date.

Ma said 1,178 public complaints about official misdeeds involving relief following the devastating May 12 earthquake had been received as of last Friday.

"Among these cases, 1,007 have been probed and resolved," she reportedly said, noting most of the cases were about improper distribution of tents and food, and the rest about slow or inefficient official responses.

The 8.0-magnitude earthquake which devastated wide areas of southwest Sichuan province left more than 87,000 people dead or missing.

China's officials have repeatedly issued assurances that quake-relief aid would be properly handled and threatened harsh punishments for corruption, an apparent reflection of official worries about graft sabotaging the recovery.

Corruption is rampant in China, both in government ranks and throughout society, as the country ploughs through its development boom without a free press or an independent judiciary.

While saying no corruption had yet been found involving donations, Liu, head of the National Audit Office, added that "some work needs to be improved in quake-relief funds and material management."

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Sunken Philippine ferry carrying 862 people: company
Manila (AFP) June 23, 2008
More than 800 people were on board the ferry that sank in the Philippines, its owners said Monday, up from an original number of 747 passengers and crew.

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