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Quake roads 'all now reopened'
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Standing beside the flowing Minjiang River, Li Linxian made his New Year's wish: finishing his hardest-ever mission as soon as possible.

As a construction worker with the Sichuan Road & Bridge Group (SRBG), Li and his 44 workmates have been working on the road between Dujiangyan and Wenchuan, the epicenter of the May earthquake, for nearly eight months.

"We have never left the road since the third day after the massive quake destroyed it," Li said, noting this has been the most challenging mission in his roughly two-decade long career.

Yesterday, construction workers in Sichuan's quake-hit regions got the best reward, as the provincial government announced that all the roads destroyed by the May earthquake have reopened.

The 12-km-long road that links the village of Zhitai, located about 15 km north of the epicenter in Wenchuan county, to the No 317 national highway has been reopened, the provincial government said on its website.

That means all the 2,384 affected roads in the province have resumed operation, it said.

According to media reports, the massive quake has affected or destroyed 22,000 km of roads in Sichuan.

The government also said it will continue focusing on road maintenance in the future.

Known as the eastern route, the 82-km road between Dujiangyan and Wenchuan was almost totally destroyed by the quake and subsequent landslides. The 710-km western route via Ya'an, which provided access for rescue and medical teams, suffered less damage.

"The detour is eight times longer than the eastern route," Li said.

Working alongside the Minjiang River, the team has been constantly hampered by heavy rains and aftershocks, which on May 14 - the first day they got there - "happened almost once a minute", he said.

More than 3,000 workers from SRBG have led the way in rebuilding the province's shattered road network after the quake. Thanks to their hard work, the road between Dujiangyan and Wenchuan was clearly and finally reopened in early September.

Since then, Li's team started the maintenance work.

Currently, they are on their last task in the whole mission: rebuilding an 84-m-long bridge linking a protruded rock and a village in which the team is now based. Without a bridge, vehicles will have to detour by encircling the steep rock in a valley of the Minjiang River.

"We hoped to finish the bridge before the Chinese New Year, but we know it is impossible now," Li said, blaming the delays on the forbidding terrain.

Their construction site is located in the village of Suopo, about 30 km to the south of Wenchuan county.

"Suopo" means "sliding slope" in the Sichuan dialect, and Li's team has been at constant risk from falling rocks, aftershocks and landslides, since they got there in mid-September.

Each night before they go to bed, the workers park large machinery just out of their temporary shelter to block the falling rocks.

"Local people call the mountain Guizhaoshou (devil's greeting)," Li said.

"Many times when we woke up, we found machinery that had been broken by fallen rocks."

There is a risk even when it is deep in winter - not a rainy season, he said, as winds set off rock falls.

But work still goes on, Li added. Following his fingers, workers were busy at the foot of the "devil's greeting".

In order to finish the bridge, the whole team works for 24 hours a day and on two shifts.

"Now we hope a new bridge will be here after the Chinese New Year, allowing vehicles passing by to get further away from the devil's greetings," Li said.

(China Daily January 6, 2009)

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