Up to 30,000 residents must move out of a small rural county of Qingchuan, in southwest China's Sichuan Province, because of frequent secondary disasters in the mountainous area since the devastating May 12 earthquake, local officials said Wednesday.
The first group of 3,000 farmers from three townships had been relocated to neighboring counties from Qingchuan, about 200 km northeast of Wenchuan County, the epicenter of the 8.0-magnitude quake on May 12, said Li Zhi, of the disaster relief headquarters of Guangyuan City, which administers Qingchuan.
"After a field survey, geologists concluded that no means of livelihood and production were left in those areas since the quake," Li said.
"In addition, as a zone at high risk of secondary disasters such as landslides, it is no longer appropriate for people to inhabit."
The three townships of Hongguang, Magong and Shiba have a combined population of 13,000, and 10,000 have been sheltered temporarily in neighboring regions.
"The entire Magong Township was buried underground, all gone," said Huang Xingwen, Party chief of the township.
"We cannot even find a safe place to put up a tent," he said.
Magong had 1,938 residents, of whom 73 died in the disaster.
The powerful quake leveled 80 percent of the buildings in Qingchuan, which has 36 townships with a population of about 250,000. It also left 4,695 people dead, 15,453 injured and 124 missing.
Nationwide, the worst quake to hit China in three decades has killed more than 69,000 people and left millions homeless.
The quake struck an area of 3,269 square kilometers in Qingchuan and has incurred losses of more than 65 billion yuan (9.3 billion US dollars), said Chen Zhengyong, head of the county.
"Up to 30,000 people need to move out. Some places are no loner inhabitable," he said.
But it was not clear where the residents would go.
Reluctant to move, 37-year-old He Zailong had to leave his hometown, Guotan Village in Magong Township.
"I hadn't even seen my newly-built two-story house before it was destroyed," said He, who had been working for an aluminium mine in northern Shanxi Province. His 65-year-old father He Lixiang died in the quake.
He, his wife, his brother and their children moved to a township in neighboring Jian'ge County on Tuesday.
"We must rebuild our homes. That's the most important thing for now, even if we have to start from nothing," he said.
He would return and pay his respects to his hometown every year because his family had lived there for generations and his father was buried there.
"No matter how difficult it is, I will go back," he said.
(Xinhua News Agency June 4, 2008)