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Sichuan on firmer ground than a year ago
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People in quake-hit Sichuan Province need more help, especially from the government, even if they are holding their heads high despite the sorrow and challenges.

First, the government should give more loans to the poorer farmers for building quake-resistant houses, as the farmers are really penniless. Second, the government should take concrete measures to prevent decline of meat prices as this has dented the profit of pig farmers, as more than half of the farmers in Sichuan are counting on raising pigs to earn money.

These were the two priorities listed by 38-year-old Chen Xueliang and 30-year-old Wang Hua, who have carried on after losing their daughters to last year's quake in the severely-damaged Nanba town in Sichuan's Pingwu county.

One year after the country's worst quake in recent memory, the rebuilding scenes here are unforgettable. There are unending lines of trucks carrying construction material. In the towns, most of the debris has been removed. Roads have been widened. Many new schools and hospitals, which are fast coming up, will be opened later this year. Plenty of new homes have been built. And, some farmers have even moved into their new homes.

During my two-week tour of the affected areas for interviews, I talked mostly to local people, including in the remote mountainous regions. Here, trauma healing is still a novel idea and volunteers are finding it difficult to reach many an area.

All the people this reporter spoke to were one in saying that the recovery is faster and sooner than expected. They deserve to be commended, these stout-hearted and optimistic victims, who have overcome so much in such a short period.

I met Chen in a makeshift tent restaurant in the town, which is now a big construction site at the foot of mountains and was split by the quake. He had come for a market fair with several villagers living some 10 kilometers away in the mountains.

Chen and his wife earn their livelihood by raising pigs on a small farm. He keeps himself abreast of news by daily reading of an e-paper on his mobile phone. He finds the flu virus A(H1N1) has already had an adverse impact on his pig-raising business, as meat prices are rapidly declining.

On the activity around him, he said that his fellow villagers have started rebuilding their homes even though they are short of money to finish the construction.

"I used to be teacher, migrant worker. After the quake, in which my 7-year-old daughter was killed, I started the new business in my hometown," said Chen.

There was the hint of sorrow in his eyes as he talked of his daughter, now at eternal rest along with hundreds of her schoolmates, a short distance from the restaurant where we were talking.

This is my third visit to the seven-family community, which is 5 kilometers away from Nanba town. Nearby is a massive slope formed by mudslide from the high mountains.

All the men are working outside. Four of the families have already rebuilt their homes at their original site, next to the 100-meter-wide slope. The wives, left behind at home, are joyful with relief.

"You can see many big changes around: two orphans have moved to Hunan province to further education, my son is married and she", Yan Yuhui said pointing at her neighbor Wang Hua, "is pregnant".

The mudslide last year killed the parents of 17-year-old twins Yan Dashuan and Yan Xiaoshuan. Yan said that "Wang Hua's mother-in-law and her daughter were killed in the disaster."

Wang Hua appeared lost in worry. She then came out with it: "I am quite concerned about our safety, particularly the safety of the baby to be born. The rainy season is coming and it's very dangerous. If not a quake, then I am afraid a mudslide may kill us someday."

It became cloudy and there was a rumble of thunder, the seven families were becoming tense.

Mudslide is always a concern in the rainy season. The small community lives on land that is only 20 meters above a fast-flowing river, which swells with the rains, against the backdrop of a slope formed by the landslide.

"For us, changing such a precarious living situation is more urgent than psychological healing," said Wang.

(China Daily May 12, 2009)

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