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Mourners crowd earthquake site
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About 40,000 people visited earthquake devastated Beichuan County in Sichuan Province on the first two days of the Chinese New Year.

Most of them went to the ruins of the small county which was flattened in the 8.0-magnitude earthquake on May 12 last year to mourn for the victims, Chengdu Evening News reported.

Nearly 70,000 people were killed in the disaster, the worst in three decades in China, and Beichuan was among the most severely affected regions.

The former county seat has been locked down and visitors have to obtain permission from the police. Most visitors parked their cars at Renjiaping as vehicles are prohibited on the county roads.

The visitors, many of whom used to be local villagers, walked through the ruins in the rain, their cars parked in long lines in front of a deserted toll kiosk.

A memorial sightseeing platform with a monument was surrounded by burning joss sticks and candles, while bundles of yellow chrysanthemums were scattered on the mountainside nearby, according to the newspaper.

One visitor from Beijing told the newspaper that he had worked as volunteer in Beichuan after the earthquake and he had brought his son to the ruins to show him the sadness of the county. Because of the lockdown, the man, surnamed Ou, walked more than half an hour with his son in the mountains. They climbed to the top of a hill to view the ruins, the newspaper said.

A police officer surnamed Lin said Beichuan had had more than 10,000 visitors every day from Sunday - the Chinese New Year's Eve.

Beichuan is the home of ethnic Qiang Chinese, and the Beichuan Qiang Autonomous County was formally created in 2003.

The former county seat, which prior to the earthquake had a population of 20,000, is to be made into a memorial park, as the site has been deemed too vulnerable. The survivors of the quake have been relocated and the new county seat is at Yongchang Town.

(Shanghai Daily January 30, 2009)

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