Across China: New Year wishes from quake-hit county

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JISHISHAN, Gansu Province, Jan. 1 (Xinhua) -- When the first ray of sunshine of the year 2024 fell upon a county in northwest China's Gansu Province, resettlement sites for people affected by the earthquake in December 2023 were already bustling.

Holding a rope with her teammates, 17-year-old Shi Ziwei in the Bonan-Dongxiang-Salar Autonomous County of Jishishan was determined to win the tug of war contest on Monday morning. "It will be OK. We will be better in the new year," she wrote on WeChat.

A 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck Jishishan just before midnight on December 18, leaving more than 150 people dead in Gansu and neighboring Qinghai Province.

Shi's parents, who work in Xinjiang, arrived home less than half an hour before the quake struck. The family managed to run into the yard, where they saw houses collapse due to the strong tremor.

"Staying up to greet my parents, my grandparents didn't go to sleep as early as usual. So luckily no one was injured," Shi said, while adding that she still felt fortunate to be able to talk about the disaster. Over the past several days, Shi and her younger brother worked as volunteers to help local village cadres collect information about damages suffered by their fellow villagers.

To boost the morale of people affected by the quake, local cadres organized activities such as tug of war, a basketball match and performances of song and dance to celebrate the new year.

"Villagers are enthusiastic," said Ma Xiaoyong, a cadre of the Shenjiaping village where Shi lives. "We planned to have one team representing each community, but there were too many villagers signing up for the events, so we had more teams."

Prefabricated houses were built to provide temporary resettlement for villagers, and Shi's family moved into one last Thursday. Her mom selected a piece of cloth with a beautiful floral pattern to make curtains, and installed a small mirror on the wall for dressing-up purposes.

"My biggest wish is that we can soon rebuild our hometown and move into new houses," said Shi Ziwei's father Shi Fuchang, while cheers and laughter rang out due to his daughter's team winning their contest. According to local authorities, the new houses are likely to be ready before next winter.

In the Dahe village, 20-year-old Ma Wenying was preparing hotpot as the first meal of the new year. Two days ago, his granny asked him to bring the refrigerator from their quake-damaged house to their resettlement site, now decorated with red lanterns, so that they could buy food ingredients and start cooking again.

Their badly damaged two-storey house was newly built costing them about 800,000 yuan (112,678.4 U.S. dollars). "We are still young and can work hard," Ma told Xinhua. During the New Year and Spring Festival holidays, his parents and elder brother will not return home. Instead, they have opted to earn more money by running their restaurant in Inner Mongolia during these holidays.

Ma's role is to take care of both his grandparents, and the three-mu (about 0.2 hectares) of walnut trees on the hill. "The walnuts next year will be sold for a good price," he said, smiling. "After we have enough money, we will rebuild the house. Then my brother and I will both be getting married."

In the county seat of Jishishan, Zhao Huaisheng does not have to worry about houses. Having moved into a nursing home, the 70-year-old man showed Xinhua the bathroom and barrier-free facilities in his apartment. He was also provided with free clothes.

The old man used to live alone in the Gaoli village, where his house was toppled by the quake. With nowhere to go, he and some other seniors were resettled in the nursing home.

"There are staff members taking special care of us," he said. "My house was damaged, but I have a place to live, food to eat and clothes to wear."

Bathed in the first rays of 2024, Zhao combed his hair carefully, while dumplings were being prepared for breakfast. "This is another year now," he said. "My wish is that everyone is safe and healthy." Enditem

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