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No answers for Chinese who lost children to quake

About 150 parents gathered Friday at the ruins of Fuxin No. 2 Primary School, hoping to learn why the building collapsed in last month's earthquake, killing their sons and daughters.

They left with nothing: The results, officials say, were just not ready.

The parents said local officials had promised to give them the details on why the school crumbled in the May 12 quake.

They accused the government of stalling.

“We are not satisfied with the government. They are playing for time,” said Huang Zaojun, whose 11-year-old son was among 270 students that authorities say died when the three-story school collapsed.

Hong Kong Cable TV quoted parents as saying that officials denied in the meeting that they had promised to give details of the investigation. The school was located in the town of Wufu, 45 miles north of the provincial capital Chengdu.

“The government said the experts are still making an evaluation and asked us to wait. They said the result might come out in three or five days, or one or two years,” Huang said.

He said parents would ask lawyers to find experts to make a separate evaluation.

Accusations of shoddy school construction have increasingly turned to anger against local authorities in Sichuan province, where more than 69,000 people died in China's worst disaster in three decades.

Parents have protested at numerous schools in the province, calling for explanations as to why schools collapsed so easily while nearby buildings were still standing after the 7.9 magnitude quake.

The parents were sensitive to official pressure and pushed a television crew that did not have media passes out of the area because they thought the crew was from the government.

Foreign engineers who inspected collapsed buildings in Sichuan blamed poor construction.

“If the government compels students to be in schools, and designs and constructs the schools, then the government has responsibility,” said Brian Tucker of GEOHazards International, a nonprofit organization that works for better quake-proof buildings.

But Tucker said the many levels of government involved made it difficult to pinpoint who was at fault.

Kit Miyamoto, a spokesman for the Structural Engineering Association of California, said he found many cases of non-reinforced concrete when he inspected collapsed schools in Sichuan.

Miyamoto, head of engineering firm Miyamoto International Inc., said telltale signs of substandard construction were readily discernible.

“It took me four hours to understand what went wrong,” he said. But Miyamoto added it could take longer to find out who is responsible.

At least four journalists representing foreign media outlets were detained for as long as six hours while trying to cover the meeting between the parents and authorities, including an Associated Press reporter who spoke to parents at the school.

Thunderstorm and heavy rainstorms were forecast this weekend in Sichuan, the provincial weather bureau said.

This month marks the start of the annual rainy season, which routinely causes rivers to flood their banks.

Landslides are a particular concern because the May 12 earthquake caused steep hillsides to shear away and crash into river valleys below. Many slopes remain unstable and are at high risk of being washed away by rainstorms.

Torrential rains have swept much of southern China in the past week.

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