A year after deadly quake, China grows amidst pains and hope | Shanghai Daily

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A year after deadly quake, China grows amidst pains and hope

ONE year after the deadly May 12 earthquake killed nearly 70,000 Chinese and injured more than 370,000, quake survivors find themselves still struggling to recover as the rebuilding campaign continues.

Many of them know they should come out of their shell, let go the past pains and move on. But their hearts refuse.

In Donghekou Earthquake Relic Park of the worst-hit Qingchuan County in Sichuan, He Xiantong has resided in a nearby barrack for a year, selling chrysanthemums to visitors who are there to mourn families or friends.

He chose to live this way to remember his beloved wife whose body was buried underneath the park and to provide for his son.

"I know she (his wife) wants us to live a good life. But it really takes me time to come out of the sad memories," he said.

To commemorate the deceased on the first anniversary of the deadly calamity, the Chinese government on Sunday opened up the quake-leveled Beichuan county seat on Sunday.

Some 21,000 people or two-thirds of the county seat's population were dead or missing there. Tears poured as mourners brought flowers, incense and candles and set off firecrackers in the ruins of former bus stations, county government buildings and homes.

The town will be open through Wednesday. Later, the seat will be the home of a state earthquake relic museum. A new county seat will be built 23 km from the former one, with a changed name "Yongchang", the Chinese for "forever prosperous."

Prosperity is a dream shared by many quake survivors. With little belongings left after the earthquake, many of them had to start from scratch. But the road to prosperity is not easy as they must first accept reality and cure their own trauma.

As the race against time goes on, some maneuvered themselves into a less miserable position. Twenty couples whose previous spouse died in Beichuan, for instance, finally had the courage to pursue happiness in new marriages. A joint wedding service was held by the local government late last month.

Tian Fugang, 22, a former technician whose legs were paralyzed during the earthquake decided to become an air rifle sportsman aiming for future Paralympics.

Under the planning of the Chinese government, it would take about three years to complete quake zone home rebuilding. Upon the completion, the living conditions and economic development in the quake zones should be the same as or even better than that before the earthquake.

This is a tough job. It gets even tougher after Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said in the 2009 government work report in March that the central government would intensify and accelerate post-earthquake reconstruction so that the target could be reached in two years.

The first and foremost problem, many local officers say, is capital shortage. The Sichuan provincial government estimated post-quake rebuilding would cost about 1.7 trillion yuan, of which only 360 billion yuan was covered by local finance by March, according to Wei Hong, vice governor of Sichuan.

But across the quake zone, there is no sign of giving up. The Mianzhu city authority has started to mobilize public capital through the establishment of government-sponsored investment companies and credit-guarantee companies.

In Qingxi, a small town of 15,000 people in Qingchuan County, home rebuilding costs come close to the aggregate investment it has ever made in the past 60 years. Such intensity has posed unprecedented challenges to local government officers.

A remedy given by the central government is to have 19 much more developed provinces and municipalities assist the rebuilding, bringing over much-needed talent and management expertise.

Chiefs of the 30 worst-hit counties and cities were summoned last July to Beijing for an emergency workshop where they could borrow the rebuilding experiences from Tangshan, a northern city hit by earthquake in 1976, and the quake-vulnerable Japan.

In a speech to the training, Li Yuanchao, head of the Organization Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, inspired these "students" to be "open-minded".

Unemployment, a major headache in the quake zones which many people thought would deteriorate with the chilling global economy, has proved less serious than expected.

By early April, more than 1.2 million, or 80 percent of the 1.5 million Sichuan locals who lost their jobs or farmlands to the earthquake, have been re-employed, official statistics show.

In Longnan city of Gansu Province, home rebuilding was expected to provide half million job opportunities by 2010 and allow 300,000 rural workers to get employed within the city.

When memories of the devastating earthquake fade, future generations might have to refer to history books for the unusual days quake survivors had lived through.

What they need to bear in mind, however, is not only the shocking death toll, but also the journey the Chinese people have made in pain and hope, and in particular, the national reflections on how the government should be people-oriented and how the Chinese should pay due respect to nature and science.




 

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