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Three years after quake, Sichuan rebuilds

Few weeks ago, a China Daily reporter contacted this blog for leads on foreigners working with China in Sichuan’s reconstruction. As you know, tomorrow is the three year anniversary of the May 12, 2008 earthquake; I have been looking for reports in the last few days on this topic.

The story that brought tears to my eyes was about a mother saving the life of her infant (“地震中的伟大母亲”). When rescuers arrived at a collapsed home, they found a woman in a kneeling position and slouching over. They found her posture curious and after examining her body, found in her lap a baby still alive. Wrapped with the baby is a phone, and on the screen is a typed message, “dear beloved baby, if you are able to survive, you must remember I love you.” In the video below, you will see the Chinese news anchor breaking down in reporting this story.

(Tudou version)

I can only imagine what went through the mother’s mind during her last moments. No parents should ever go through that.

Comparing to the March 11 earthquake that hit Japan, China suffered much bigger damage. Dead and missing amounted to more than 80,000 people, with those left homeless in the millions. That was a magnitude 8.0 earthquake, comparing to the 9.0 in Japan. In comparison, Japan’s death and missing is around 25,000 and were in fact mostly a result of the ensuing tsunami; not the quake itself.

For this reason, I yearn for a China that is economically prosperous so her people can afford better homes. Six years ago, I visited Jiuzhaigou (九寨沟) by car from Chengdu (成都) and we were delayed a number of times due to rock slides. The road conditions in that region were tough. China as a nation still has a long ways to go in matching the infrastructure build out that much of the developed world enjoys.

When people like Ai Weiwei tries to make a name for himself by exploiting this tragedy (see “Ai Weiwei: fighting for justice or freedom of speech?” by raffiaflower and “Ai Weiwei – ‘China’s Conscience’ And Another Dissident Bites the Dust” by 龙信明 Blog), I always wonder if he has even given money to help the victims.

The Chinese government pledged 1 trillion Yuan (about $146.5 billion) in 2008 to be spent over 3 years in reconstruction efforts. Below is a report by Wang Huazhong on China Daily detailing the progress:

2011-05-11 07:02
BEIJING – Three years after a devastating earthquake, the worst-hit areas in Sichuan and neighboring provinces, phoenix-like, have risen from the rubble.

April 10, 2011 Xinhua photo of new town in quake hit Sichuan

Ninety-five percent of reconstruction projects have been completed, with the remainder set to be finished by the end of September, Mu Hong, deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the top economic planning agency, said on Tuesday at a news briefing hosted by the State Council Information Office.

(China Daily)

By the end of April, 885.15 billion yuan ($136 billion), or 92.37 percent of the overall reconstruction budget, had been spent, according to official figures from the NDRC.

In Sichuan alone, nearly 3,000 schools, 1,000 hospitals and more than 5 million homes have been built or renovated, according to Wei Hong, executive vice-governor of Sichuan province.
Mu said government goals for reconstruction have been basically met.

“Now every family has been provided a home and a job, and everyone is protected by social security. Infrastructure has been upgraded, the economy developed and ecology improved,” he said.

The 8.0-magnitude earthquake jolted Wenchuan and surrounding areas on May 12, 2008, killing at least 87,000 people and leaving millions homeless. Neighboring provinces, such as Gansu and Shaanxi, were also affected.

Premier Wen Jiabao praised the rebuilding work on Monday at a meeting in Dujiangyan, Sichuan, at the conclusion of a three-day inspection tour.

He said there had been an improvement in people’s livelihood compared with pre-quake levels, and progress had been made in social and economic development.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao embraces Zheng Haiyang, a student at Beichuan Middle School in Sichuan province, during a visit on Sunday to the quake-hit county of Beichuan. Both of Zheng's legs were amputated after he was injured in the May 12, 2008 earthquake. (Yu Ping/China Daily)

He recalled that on the 12th day after the quake, he had said: “A new Wenchuan will rise from the ruins.”

On Monday, he saw his words had come true.

“Now incredible changes have taken place in the quake-hit areas, I feel very relieved,” he said.

During the trip, his 10th to the province since the quake, he visited middle schools and neighborhoods.

Zhu Lihu, principal of Magong village primary school in Qingchuan county, told China Daily that teaching facilities had been upgraded.

The new two-story concrete building houses classrooms, a library and a computer room equipped with 20 PCs, “way much better” than the previous school, built in the 1960s with mud bricks.

The new school was financed by the city of Quzhou, Zhejiang province, in accordance with a State Council reconstruction plan. The plan links economically developed coastal regions with quake regions to help finance rebuilding projects.

Dong Xinjun, a resident in Qingchuan county’s Qiaolou village, said volunteers from Zhejiang’s Rui’an city taught him how to grow mushrooms and he earns about 3,000 yuan more annually than before.

Shaanxi Vice-Governor Jiang Zelin told the briefing the cities of Hanzhong and Baoji in the province, which were hit by the quake, had fully recovered, with farmers’ annual income nearly double compared with three years ago.

Reconstruction in Shaanxi has created 260,000 jobs, Jiang added.

If anything, the Chinese government deserves admiration around the world for what they are doing in Sichuan. The Western media has picked a jerk once again to be their pet ‘dissident.’

  1. Charles Liu
    May 11th, 2011 at 13:38 | #1

    Did any of the foreign correspondents in China report this story? Or it’s not “mud grass horse” enough to be news worthy?

  2. Charles Liu
    May 11th, 2011 at 14:39 | #2

    Here’s the answer, not one:


    Well, at least the mother saves child story made it to two local papers in California back in 08…

  3. jxie
    May 15th, 2011 at 22:09 | #3

    FYI. The closest population center Sendai was some 100 km away from the Japanese earthquake epicenter, which was out in sea. At a bit over 100 km from the Sichuan earthquake epicenter, Chengdu suffered fewer than 100 deaths.

  4. May 15th, 2011 at 23:45 | #4

    That’s a good point, jxie. Magnitude 9.0 is roughly 21x times that of an magnitude 8.0 though. (Did I do the math correct? Someone had to correct me last time I attempted this sort of calculations.)

  5. jxie
    May 17th, 2011 at 02:21 | #5

    yinyang, with the whole nation situating right next the fault line and enjoying one of the highest living standards in the world, Japan is certainly one of the most earthquake-proof nations, if not the most. However, when the nature hits, it’s not much humans can do. For example,

    * the 2010 Chilean earthquake. It was 8.8 in Richter scale, but it wasn’t a direct hit to a population center. Its death toll was some 500.
    * the 1995 Kobe earthquake. It was 7.2 in Richter scale, and it was a direct hit to a population center. Its death toll was some 6000.

    BTW, Richter scale is a good but incomplete measurement of how potentially damaging an earthquake can be.

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