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Quake survivors struggle to rebuild life
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Jiu Bing lost his home, farmland and livelihood when the May 12 quake shook his hometown Wali township, Qingchuan county in southwest China's Sichuan Province.

Now working on two makeshift buildings not far from their damaged home, Jiu, father of two children, plans to build a relatively comfortable house where his family can live for the next couple of years.

"I will put bricks on the floor," Jiu says proudly. Most of his fellow villagers have already finished building makeshift residential buildings. They used simple materials, such as asbestos roofing, bamboo and wood.

More than 5 million people were left homeless after the earthquake. In Wali, more than 3,800 people lost their homes. Now the survivors are struggling to establish new lives.

The government has given 2,000 yuan to each family that lost their home to build makeshift accommodation in remote villages. In cities and towns where survivors live more closely, the government is building thousands of temporary timber homes.

The central government has designated 19 provinces and municipalities to each aid a county in the worst hit quake areas. These provinces are helping to build temporary homes, and to rebuild schools, hospitals and other infrastructure projects such as roads, and electricity and gas supply systems.

Xie Xiufang feels more comfortable in her temporary timber home. Her five-storey house, which she spent her lifetime savings to build, was damaged in the quake.

"The days when we slept in the tent are gone," she says. "I didn't sleep well at all then. I was sad that we lost our house and worried about the aftershocks."

The temporary home of about 20 square meters has electricity. It can protect its residents from the summer heat. There are communal kitchens, toilets and bathrooms.

"This is my home now," Xie says, sitting on a couch watching television.

For some, it might take longer to pull themselves together to rebuild a new life.

He Qingyue last talked to his wife on the phone on the morning of May 12 before he boarded a train from Taiyuan, Shanxi province, where he worked as a coalminer. He was going hometown Hongguang township, Qingchuang, to help his wife harvest. He returned to his village only to find it buried by landslides caused by the quake.

He lost his wife, and seven other relatives, including his three brothers and his sister . "I spent that night sleeping on the rubble," He says.

Luckily, his two daughters escaped the quake. "What else is there left for me to live for?" He is still suffering the pain from his paradise lost .

Living in a tent, He has no plans for the future. "Our village is gone. I don't know where I can build a new house."

The government is considering relocating some survivors because the former village is located on the earthquake fault line. Floods from quake lakes, repeated aftershocks and landslides still threaten some counties.

He Qingyue is not considering working in another city any time soon because he wants to see that his children return to school.

Jiu Bing echoes He's concern. "Food and housing are not that hard to deal with, the most important thing is where we can send our children to study."

Thousands of schools collapsed in the quake. The government has given top priority to erecting temporary buildings to get the education system back up and running.

Students in the quake region will return to school on August 1 in the makeshift classrooms, one month earlier than their counterparts elsewhere of the country.

At a job fair organized by the labor and social security department in Qingchuan county, Hu Wen has applied for a job as a chef in coastal Zhejiang Province.

Hu rushed home after the quake. A migrant work who worked as a goldminer in Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan, Hu used to send home money each month to support his sick mother, 3-years-old son and his wife.

But since he came home, he lost the job, and, at the same time, the family lost its farmland in the quake, "we have no income now besides the stipend given by the government, " Hu says.

The government is offering a daily stipend of 10 yuan and 500 grams of food for the first three months after the quake.

"But what are we going to do after three months? We need money to move on," Hu says..

The chief job he applied for promises an annual salary of 20,000 yuan, an attractive sum for a migrant worker.

Instead of finding work outside, some have found new jobs amid the quake debris.

Xu Zhengjun, a local resident of Qingchuan, was quite well off by leasing out a few shops before the quake.

All of his properties were destroyed in the quake. But the enterprise ambition in him did not allow for much grief. He soon noticed that recycling scrap metal from the quake debris can make good money.

"I can't just sit around and wait for the government," Xu says. "The assistance from the rest of the country will finally stop. Life goes on. I have to rely on myself."

(Xinhua News Agency July 5, 2008)

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