Tourism boom opens the road to riches

Updated: 2013-11-07 07:54

By Hu Yongqi and Li Yingqing (China Daily)

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Recovering from the quakes

On Aug 28, when a 5.1-magnitude earthquake hit Darakelzom National Park, blocking the local highway with fallen rocks, Sonam Dingdzog instantly rounded up the 160 workers and 248 tourists in the attraction.

The tourists were so anxious to get away that some proposed walking along to National Highway 214 to Shangri-La, 80 kilometers distant, according to Zhao Guobiao, director of the park's publicity department.

Sonam's first thought was safety. "The park is located in a long valley and I was afraid that rock slides would occur. So we loaded all the food and bedding onto trucks and moved to a small open area higher in the valley," he said.

An electricity outage rendered telecommunications useless, meaning their calls for help from outside the area went unheard. Sonam ordered his men to collect clean water from the Gangchu River and the women cooked with firewood. In three days, the group had consumed all the rice and bread they'd taken from the storage. The situation got worse when another quake occurred on Aug 31.

Sonam had no choice but to ask people to dig potatoes from the fields and boil corn to feed the group. On the afternoon of Sept 1, rescue workers came to their aid, and arranged for a few tourists who had sustained minor injuries to be taken to the hospital for treatment. "When I saw the rescue teams, my concerns suddenly disappeared," said Sonam.

When the road was partially reopened, Vice-Governor Yin Jianye visited the park.

For two months now, excavators have been working to clear debris from the highway and Sonam has yelled himself hoarse directing the drivers. He's now negotiating with the power grid to restore the electricity supply and the road is expected to fully reopen later this month, providing no more quakes occur.

- Hu Yongqi

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