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Earthquake aftershocks making China anxious -

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ELEANOR HALL: The massive earthquake that rocked China last Monday and the series of aftershocks
has left much of the population in a state of heightened anxiety.

Last night, tens of thousands of people rushed into the streets of Chengdu in south-western China
when a television report predicted another quake would soon hit.

And while the predicted quake didn't eventuate, there was yet another aftershock later in the
evening.

The ABC's China correspondent Stephen McDonell is in Chengdu, and he joins us now.

So Stephen, tell us about the panic last night.

STEPHEN MCDONELL: Yes, we were sitting in our hotel room, preparing our story for 7.30 Report
tonight. I am sitting with this little team. We are editing away and we get a call. In fact the
calls start coming in from our local Chinese staff. Their friends who are also working in the area
just start madly ringing them. Everybody has heard that there is going to be this aftershock and I
thought it was just a rumour so I just thought, oh don't worry, how can you tell if your friends
say there is going to be an aftershock.

But sure enough we turn on the television and the local Chengdu television and also the Sichuan
television news had this warning up on the screen. Something like a cyclone warning must be in
northern Australia I would imagine. You know, just saying over today and tomorrow, there could well
be a powerful aftershock - six or seven on the Richter scale.

Well this drove everyone out into the streets and a lot of people spent the night in the street
because of it. They were so, everybody is really worried at the moment and it doesn't take much to
get everyone out of the building.

ELEANOR HALL: Stephen, as we have been talking to you over the last week, there have been several
aftershocks. Do you have any idea why the state media would have been warning about this one?

STEPHEN MCDONELL: All I can think is that they are thinking that it is better to be safe than sorry
I suppose. And if somebody, in their, one of these Chinese experts has said there could well be an
aftershock based on some scientific calculation. I don't know, I thought that you couldn't predict
when an earthquake could come with any accuracy, but, so that is why they have put the warning out.

But the aftershocks are just constantly coming. I mean for example when we were at the epicentre,
when we spent the night in Yingxiu, we spoke about it yesterday, we were lying down in our sleeping
bags at one stage and all through the night the ground would be shaking. We were lying on the
ground and it is shaking and outside there is a thunderstorm with lightening going.

It was sort of like a bit like the end of the world really and they are coming thick and fast these
aftershocks anyway. Even a week later, like we had one this morning. They just keep coming.

ELEANOR HALL: And Stephen, what is the latest now from the Government on the number of people who
have been killed, the number of refugees and the financial cost of this disaster.

STEPHEN MCDONELL: Well, taking the last of those first. I mean we are talking about financial cost
- it must be enormous.

You think of the cost of flying in just fleets of helicopters, mobilising of tens of thousands of
soldiers, trucks, food, I mean you know that is what infrastructure is there for but it must have
cost a fortune.

And then you sort of also assume the cost of I suppose the rescue effort, of rebuilding entire
towns from the bottom up. I think the cost is going to be over the top. It is going to be
astronomical. I can't imagine how they will even calculate it. I mean, and then you have got to
think of the on-going costs.

Five million refugees now have no where to go. They have got to provide. They are all living in
tents. We came back into town after being at the epicentre and all the way there was these
emergency tents being set up and it will be a long time before they can build enough houses to put
all those people.

Give them somewhere to live, it is going to cost a lot of money and it will be a big effort.

ELEANOR HALL: Stephen McDonell in Chengdu, thank you. Stephen McDonell is the ABC's China
correspondent.