Havana. August 12, 2011
by Aida Calviac Mora
SICHUAN.— Beichuan honors its dead with yellow chrysanthemums. Anyone arriving in this district in the north of the Chinese province of Sichuan, is obliged to observe a minute’s silence before the shocking ruins of the May 12, 2008 earthquake, and then turn his or her head to appreciate the people’s amazing capacity for reconstruction and a new beginning.
The people recount how that Monday the earth trembled mercilessly. According to official figures, the quake of 8.00 on the Richter scale left 68,712 dead and 17,291 disappeared in the province.
With 80% of its buildings destroyed, Beichuan was transformed from a paradisiacal landscape into a Dantesque one in a matter of seconds. More than 125,000 of its inhabitants died and around 4,300 were never found. The earthquake provoked a rain of giant rocks which flattened everything in their path and raised the level of the Jiang Jiang He River, which now divides the new part of the district from the old, above the level of its bridge.
“As I was driving, I saw that the highway was beginning to move. Rocks were falling from the mountains and dust covered the sky over the valley,” recalls one of the survivors who, at 2:28pm on that day, was close to the epicenter in Wenchuan, 130 kilometers distant.
The 30,000 aftershocks increased the panic and frustration in the wake of the massive losses and shock, in China’s worst quake in 30 years.
Prime Minister Wen Jiabao traveled to the region that same day and was later joined by President Hu Jintao, to direct the considerable rescue operations which resulted in close to 84,000 people being pulled out of the rubble.
During those tragic days Cubans worked alongside the Chinese people, armed forces, the Communist Party and government on all levels, as a demonstration of sisterhood and solidarity between the two nations. The authorities of the Asian giant acknowledged the Cuban medical brigade of 35 volunteers from the Henry Reeve International Contingent Specializing in Disaster and Serious Epidemics as one of the first to come to the aid of the quake victims.
SISTERHOOD AND RESURRECTION
Sichuan, a province in southwest China, occupies a strategic position in terms of economic development in the west of the country. In the earthquake, 18 of its districts were totally flattened. Its capital is Chengdu and Beichuan, the town which suffered the most damage, lies…160 kilometers distant.
Local authorities have calculated that the considerable human and material losses have set back the socioeconomic development of the areas affected by the equivalent of 50 years.
According to the Sichuan government’s Information Office, the poverty rate went up from 11.7% to 34.9%. For that reason, barely three months after the earthquake, a temporary subsidy of 8.38 billion yuan was implemented to help more than seven million people. Low income families received assistance checks and monthly payments were organized for orphans, homeless senior citizens and people with disabilities.
With the aim of transforming the desolate construction scene, the central government adopted an aid twinning mechanism, consisting of associating cities and towns affected by the disaster with provinces in other parts of the country which did not suffer the effects of the earthquake. Currently, 18 provinces are providing help for the 18 areas affected and, by May 2011, three years after the quake, 99% of the 3,880 reconstruction projects had been completed, with an investment of 76 billion yuan ($12.66 billion).
Approximately 23 kilometers from the memorial city which the magnitude of the earthquake left brutally trapped in time, the new district of Yong Chang, modern, in harmony with its environment and respecting the constructive [sic] style of the Qiang ethnic group, the majority in the region, is rising up.
As Du Yong, chief of Beichuan district, told Granma newspaper, the new development, inaugurated at the end of January this year, has 9,000 homes and an infrastructure of schools, hospitals, water treatment plants and other basics. The new buildings are resistant to the impact of earthquakes of 8.0 in magnitude, he assures.
Sichuan families have also had to undergo a rebirth, both physical and psychological, after the untimely loss of various of their members and family planning centers have played a decisive role in instilling hope and the capacity to adapt.
In Beichuan, 700 couples lost their only child. From July of 2008, these centers have been giving subsidies to those who wish to rebuild their families, providing medical attention for pregnant women, implementing adoption policies and other guidance and support services, commented Wang Yong Xin, general deputy director of the institution, who noted that, with the help of this project, 758 children have been born since the earthquake.
One can still see incense burning in parts of Beichuan as an everlasting symbol of mourning for the dead, but there are no longer apocalyptical [sic] visions. Like the roofs and balconies which, little by little began to rise up from the ground, this population is rebuilding itself, with all of China behind it, making possible its renaissance.
Edited by Zuo Shou
Article link: http://www.granma.cu/ingles/international-i/11agosto-Beichuan.html