INTRODUCTION: The Algerian government has started a major reconstruction programme in the El-Asnam region, where thousands of people died in an earthquake last October.
GV Damage from earthquake. (4 SHOTS)
GV Prefabricated buildings going up. (5 SHOTS)
GV Tents and huts occupied by homeless. (2 SHOTS)
SVs New shops. (5 SHOTS)
GVs & CUs Goods on sale. (3 SHOTS)
SV INT Health workers. (3 SHOTS)
GV Makeshift mosque.
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Background: INTRODUCTION: The Algerian government has started a major reconstruction programme in the El-Asnam region, where thousands of people died in an earthquake last October. Finance Minister M'Hmad Hadj said 2,000 million U.S. dollars would be spent on the package, which would be financed entirely by oil revenue.
SYNOPSIS: El-Asnam was devastated by last year's earthquake. As many as five thousand people were killed, and countless were left homeless. The government's first priority was to provide temporary shelter during the winter, when ice-cold winds and snow often sweep the region. But now shattered buildings will be replaced by permanent structures.
Prefabricated houses are starting to go up, the first of an estimated 40,000 that will be needed to rebuild El-Asnam at a cost of 1,000 million dollars. Few other details of the programme have been provided, but the government says that funds will also be put aside as compensation for the victims of the earthquake. Other national and international aid amounts of 160 million dollars.
Until now the homeless have been living in tent villages and other flimsy accommodation just outside the city. Some have been allowed to build little shanties of wood and cardboard near their former homes.
But many businessmen wasted little time in re-opening their shops. At the time of the earthquake survivors fought over sacks of flour which were dropped from trucks along the main street of the city. The President of the Algerian Red Crescent Organisation said he was faced with the prospect of feeding 200,000 people, possibly for a long time. In the early stages 20 tonnes of food were provided for the victims -- from inside the country, let alone internationally. But already a remarkable recovery has been made by local traders.
Supplies of fruit and vegetables appear to be plentiful in El-Asnam, although many thousands of residents are still jobless, penniless and short of food. The government is hoping that its compensation scheme will give people the opportunity to make a new start in life.
Health is another problem which faced the authorities in the early days of the disaster -- and still does. A winter spent with little protection from the cold has taken its toll of many victims. To counter the spread of disease the ruins of the city were disinfected and then evacuated for good. The government decided not to rebuild on the original site of El-Asnam, but build a new city nearby for those who want to stay.
As yet there is only a temporary mosque. But it won't be long before a new one goes up.