Rising from the ashes

Updated: 2011-05-04 07:58

By Wang Qian (China Daily)

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 Rising from the ashes

Liu Hua with her twin girls at her home in Beichuan, Sichuan province. Jiang Dong / China Daily

Rising from the ashes

Rising from the ashes

Rising from the ashes

On May 12, 2008, a massive quake flattened many counties in Sichuan province. Today, births, artificial limbs for the disabled and new homes have all but wiped out the despair and devastation. Wang Qian reports.

Walking faster and better is all that 39-year-old Deyang resident Liu Chunyan has been dreaming of every day for the past three years. She lost a leg and injured her spine in the deadly 8.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Sichuan province on May 12, 2008. Its epicenter was located in Wenchuan county, close to Deyang city.

Today, but for the crutches, there is nothing to connect her sunny face to her terrible ordeal of 2008.

The deadly quake claimed nearly 70,000 lives, and left some 18,000 missing, besides disabling tens of thousands.

Liu will never forget that afternoon when she and about 30 other workers were having a meeting on the third floor of the Tianma coal factory, in Hanwang town, when the quake hit.

Seventeen people were killed instantaneously. Liu lay buried for a whole day. When she was finally pulled out, she lost her left leg.

Lying prone in bed for three months, Liu contemplated suicide but her husband's care and her 13-year-old son's presence not only pulled her back from the brink of despair, but also gave her courage to face life anew.

After being fitted with an artificial limb, given to her free of charge, Liu would spend more than eight hours exercising every day in the Deyang Rehabilitation, Prosthetic and Orthotic Center in Sichuan province that is supported by Hong Kong Red Cross.

In October 2010, she was finally able to walk by supporting herself on crutches.

"I never thought I would even be able to sit up, but now I cannot only sit but also walk," Liu says with obvious confidence. She now runs a curtain store with her husband in Deyang.

For thousands of people like Liu, disabled by the earthquake, it's not only their homes that have been rebuilt but also their hearts.

In the past three years, more than 27,000 people injured by the quake have received rehabilitation and 1,127 persons given artificial limbs, according to the Sichuan provincial health bureau.

So far, 5,167 mental health service centers have been established covering all villages in the quake zone and about 125,000 people have received psychological counseling.

Like Liu, 25-year-old He Chuntao lost her legs in the earthquake, but after rehabilitation with artificial limbs, she has opened an online store on, China's biggest online retail website by transactions.

"Working outside is difficult, but working at home is easy," she says smiling.

Cao Ronghan, a worker at the Deyang rehabilitation center, says besides providing prosthetic limbs, the center also helps victims with post-rehabilitation guidance. "Bringing them back to normalcy is our final goal," Cao says.

The center's staff offer suggestions on how to modify their homes, train them to use rehabilitation equipment, and provide occupational therapy.

At least 68 million yuan ($11 million) has been invested in the center since it opened on July 6, 2008 and more than 4,508 people injured quake victims had received treatment by the end of March, according to the most recent data from the center.

The birth of her twin girls has given 34-year-old Liu Hua from Beichuan, another county in the quake-hit region, new hope for the future.

Ever since losing her 8-year-old daughter in the earthquake, Liu has dreamt of this moment.

"I wanted to die with my daughter, but now I have reason to live," Liu says.

That fateful afternoon of May 12, Liu's daughter was in Chengguan primary school and was later confirmed dead.

Losing her daughter almost killed Liu, but now her twin girls take up all her time. "I feel I can face anything when they smile," she says.

Three years after the earthquake, new births, new homes and new hope have replaced ruins and despair in the quake-hit areas.

Talking of her decision to have another child, Liu says, "We all need someone to take care of us in our old age."

Later in May, a team of fertility experts from the Beichuan population and family planning service center will visit couples who lost their only child in the quake and want to have another child, Wang Yongxing, deputy director of the center, tells China Daily.

Wang and his wife are among the 200 couples in Beichuan still hoping for another child.

"We have tried all kinds of means, but because we are too old, I may have to give up," Wang says.

The 57-year-old lost his wife, daughter and son-in-law in the quake and remarried a 44-year-old woman whose husband had died in the quake.

The central government has poured 100 million yuan ($15 million) into family planning funds for services to help parents of children killed or disabled in the devastating earthquake.

Such couples are entitled to receive free treatment for assisted conception, free delivery and post-natal care.

Yuan Jieming, a 39-year-old new father in Shifang city, located just 55 km from Wenchuan, carries his 2-month-old baby girl Yuan Shiyi, all day, terrified of losing her.

Holding the infant, the quiet man suddenly starts talking of his son who was buried in the avalanche of debris when his middle school building caved in.

"If my son was alive, he would be 1.7 meters tall now. He was just 13 when he died," Yuan says.

Meanwhile, everywhere in the quake-hit areas of Sichuan, reconstruction is bringing dramatic improvements to people's quality of life.

According to Wei Hong, executive deputy governor of province, nearly 900 billion yuan has been set aside for 39 key severely hit counties for post-quake reconstruction.

Liu Qingping, a 35-year-old resident of reconstructed Hongbai town, Shifang, says that all residents now live in two- or three-story houses with running water and natural gas. When the massive earthquake happened, Liu was working in the town's cement plant. She was rescued after lying buried in the ruins for more than 12 hours.

Located 38 km from Shifang, Hongbai town with a population of 6,713, was completely flattened.

But by the end of April, schools, daycare centers, sewage treatment plants, garbage stations and roads had all been rebuilt.

Liu's family of five now lives in a 170 square meter two-story house valued at 200,000 yuan, of which 38,000 yuan was subsidized by the local government.

The 42-inch television set sitting in the living room is a source of pride and joy for Liu and Yue Tianquan, her 39-year-old husband.

According to the Sichuan provincial civil affairs bureau, nearly 150 billion yuan has gone into subsidizing the reconstruction of about 1.5 million households.

Although Yue still owes more than 100,000 yuan to relatives for the house, he is optimistic about the future. "Facing life positively is what I feel I owe to my miraculous escape," Yue says.

Many severely damaged counties, including Yingxiu, have been built into beautiful towns.

According to Zhang Tongrong, head of Wenchuan county, residents have paid less than 50,000 yuan for the 200,000 yuan houses, with the rest coming from the central and local governments.


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