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Farmers wait for reopening of lifeline
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Caopo villagers share biscuits for lunch at a quake relief station. They now have to trek six hours on the mountain ridges to get food as the only road out of the township was destroyed in the earthquake.

Two months after the devastating quake hit Sichuan province, Ren Jian, head of Wenchuan's Caopo township, thought he could finally afford a brief rest from relief and reconstruction work.

He was wrong.

On July 10, a day after rescue workers opened a small lane through the landslides that had blocked the road to the Sichuan township since May 12, a severe aftershock and heavy downpour triggered a mudslide, burying the only way into town surrounded by high mountains.

"We are not sure how long it will take to clear the road again," the rescue team's director, Hu Yue, said in a phone interview with China Daily yesterday.

The damaged mountain passage is one example of how the quake has seriously impacted the lives of those in Wenchuan.

Experts have said that the mountain roads in Wenchuan face a constant threat of landslides and mudslides in the next decade, making the lives of the mountain villagers all the tougher.

Shortly after the disaster hit, the local government handed out relief supplies to residents in quake zones. Liang Xiuyun, like other 4,500 Caopo natives, was entitled to 2.5 kg of rice every day for his five family members.

But the blocked road serves as a major obstacle in his journey to obtain food supplies.

Once every week, the 30-year-old farmer has to wake up at 5 in the morning and trek six hours on mountain ridges before reaching the site where the rice was distributed.

He endures another six-hour trip home with a 20-kg load of rice on his back. Along the way, Liang has to watch out for loose rocks and soil from the mountain slopes.

"The road is our lifeline," Ren said.

"If we cannot reopen it soon, reconstruction will be even more difficult."

More than half of the town's 40 km of farmland was destroyed in the quake, Ren said. The rest of the land, used to grow chilies and potatoes, could bring in more than 9 million yuan ($1.3 million) for the farmers - if the produce can be transported out of Caopo for sale

"If the road can't be restored soon, all the vegetables will end up rotting in the soil," Ren said.

(China Daily July 16, 2008)

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