Ya'an recovers quickly from disaster

Updated: 2014-04-21 07:24

By Huang Zhiling and Peng Chao in Ya'an, Sichuan (China Daily)

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1,099 apartments rebuilt in urban area with 17,901 more still to come

Sitting in his wheelchair at the entrance to his new, two-bedroom house, Yang Kexiang wants to shake hands with every visitor.

"He is pleased to see people who visit his new home although he can't speak," said Yang Zhonglu, a 70-year-old resident of the village of Long- xing in Longmen township, Lushan county, Sichuan province, who takes care of 57-year-old Yang Kexiang.

Yang Kexiang had a stroke three years ago that left him paralyzed from the waist down and unable to speak. A magnitude-7.0 earthquake on April 20, 2013, which had its epicenter in Longmen, dealt him another heavy blow when it destroyed his ramshackle thatched cottage.

Of Longxing's 761 households, 464 lost their homes in the quake that killed 176 people and injured 12,614 in Ya'an, the city that administers Lushan.

The government offered subsidies for people to rebuild their homes, and built houses for old people without children and disabled people like Yang Kexiang, who has no relatives, free of charge.

"Old people without children and disabled people like Yang Kexiang are not entitled to the house ownership certificate but can live there their entire lives. The government provides them with furniture, kitchenware and a television set. It hires people to take care of people like Yang Kexiang," village head Yang Chenghui said.

The damage from the Lushan quake was felt in all six counties and two districts of Ya'an. It affected 12,500 square kilometers of land, more than 81 percent of the area of Ya'an. More than 1.5 million people, over 97 percent of the city's population, were affected.

But unlike the Wenchuan earthquake on May 12, 2008, Sichuan rebuilt the Lushan zone mainly through its own efforts.

The Wenchuan earthquake, whose epicenter was in Wenchuan county, Sichuan, was the biggest earthquake since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, causing the greatest damage, affecting the largest area and entailing the most daunting relief work.

That quake killed 69,226 people and left 17,923 missing, and it affected 417 counties in 10 provinces with a total disaster area of 500,000 sq km.

The central government asked 18 provinces and municipalities to help Sichuan - the hardest-hit area in the quake - rebuild its quake zone. Each helped a hard-hit county in Sichuan.

To encourage farmers to make their own efforts to rebuild houses damaged in the Lushan earthquake, the Sichuan provincial government provided subsidies to them. A household of one to three people received 26,000 yuan ($4,172); of four to five people, 29,000 yuan; and households of six or more people received 32,000 yuan.

"Each household received an additional 4,000 yuan if the family was extremely poor or any family member had cancer, mental health problems or had perished in the Lushan earthquake. Old people and children without any relatives and people like Yang Kexiang can live in houses built by the local government free of charge," said Yang Yue, deputy chief of Lushan government's information office.

Sichuan Vice-Governor Chen Wenhua said the central finance department allocated 46 billion yuan and the Sichuan provincial finance department allocated an additional 10 billion yuan for reconstruction of the Lushan quake zone.

In the Lushan zone, 80,771 farmhouses and 33,696 urban apartments had to be rebuilt.

According to the Ya'an government information office, 45,000 new farmhouses have been completed and another 33,000 have been started.

Reconstruction of 1,099 urban apartments has been completed and another 17,901 urban apartments are being built, said Zhou Quanzhi, deputy chief of the office.

On July 15, 2013, the central government announced a plan for the restoration and reconstruction of the Lushan quake zone, requiring that the reconstruction be completed within three years after the quake.

Sichuan has promoted the use of new building materials such as light steel in building such homes as light steel is considered more resilient in quakes.

Of the 326 households in Yanxi, a village in Yanxi township, Baoxing county, 93 needed their residences rebuilt after the quake.

"Forty-seven households are building residences with light steel frames rather than wood thanks to a promotion that began in late September," said Chen Zongqiang, a 32-year-old villager.

He is putting the final decorative touches on his two-story, 204-sq-m house, which in a month is likely to be the first in the village to be occupied when he moves in with his 62-year-old mother, who has had heart disease for five years, and his 7-year-old son.

His 25-year-old wife, a Tibetan from Daocheng county in the Ganzi Tibetan autonomous prefecture in Sichuan, left the family without saying goodbye after their wooden house collapsed in the quake.

"We hope my wife will return now that our home has been rebuilt," Chen said in front of his new house, set against a backdrop of high mountains with flowers blooming out front.

Contact the writers at huangzhiling@chinadaily.com.cn