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Quake-hit county gets new home
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Marking a major step in reconstruction efforts following the devastating earthquake that hit Sichuan province on May 12, local authorities in the city of Mianyang have decided to rebuild its county seat of Beichuan, one of the worst-hit areas in the quake, in nearby Anxian county.

The city government will build the new county seat in the east of Yong'an and Anchang towns in Anxian, Chen Wen, an information officer of Mianyang, said over the weekend.

The new site is more than 4 km from the nearest quake belt, authorities have said.

Headed by Tan Li, the Party chief of Mianyang, which has Beichuan and Anxian counties under its administration, more than 40 experts in construction and earthquakes have arrived in Beichuan to plan the reconstruction of the new county seat, Chen said.

The deserted county of Beichuan after the massive earthquake on May 12. 

The master plan of the new 3 sq km county seat and a 2 sq km industrial park within it will be completed by the end of next month, with the first phase of their construction scheduled to start next February, Chen said.

Shandong provincial authorities are also scheduled to help Mianyang in reconstructing the new county seat and the industrial park, as part of arrangements made by the State Council earlier this year.

Shandong will do its utmost to build the seat into a site with sound establishment and distinctive characteristics of the local Qiang ethnic minority, said Xu Zhengxi, vice-mayor of Shandong's Weifang city. Xu heads a team of Shandong aid workers in Beichuan.

More than 8,600 of the 13,000 people living in Beichuan's Qushan town, about 90 km from the quake epicenter, were killed in the disaster.

Safety was the top priority in selecting the new county seat, said Beichuan county Party chief Song Ming.

"We plan to build a monument and a museum on the previous location to commemorate the quake victims," he said.

Beichuan is also planning for a 19.7 billion yuan ($2.9 billion) tourism restoration project aimed at building the region into an internationally renowned destination for travelers to learn about Qiang culture within three to five years, officials said.

Part of the plan is to have the former county seat transformed into a national earthquake museum, said Zhang Gu, head of the Sichuan provincial tourism bureau.

The museum will feature a quake-relief training center, a quake-escape training center, a wall memorializing those who died in the quake and a monument dedicated to those who took part in quake relief.

Beichuan is the country's only Qiang autonomous county. It was home to about 300,000 Qiang people prior to the quake, but about 10 percent of them died in the disaster.

(China Daily November 10, 2008)

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