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Taiwan Earthquake Victims Protest

September 16, 2000

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) _ Hundreds of victims of last year’s devastating earthquake camped out in a park in central Taiwan Saturday to protest the slow reconstruction of their shattered towns and crumbled homes.

They set up tents at a park in Nantou county just days before the anniversary of the 7.6-magnitude temblor, which rattled the largely rural county and nearby Taichung county on Sept. 21 last year, killing about 2,400 people.

Many of the dead were buried in collapsed apartment buildings.

Organizers said at least 50,000 people remain unemployed in the two counties while thousands of others are still staying at temporary homes, and have failed to get compensation from developers they say should be held responsible for the shoddy construction work.

Television footage showed the protesters with banners reading ``We want homes. We want jobs″ as they squatted next to their tents where they planned to stay throughout the night.

At a news conference Saturday, President Chen Shui-bian apologized for the slow reconstruction, blaming government bureaucracy and inefficiency.

The government has spent $10 billion on temporary housing and other quake relief work.

The private Reconstruction Foundation, which managed donations, has also blamed local governments for misuse of private funds or being slow in distributing the money for reconstruction.

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