Schools, hospitals withstand deadly quake

By Deng Zhangyu in Shimian county, Sichuan ( China Daily ) Updated: 2013-05-12 08:43:33

Shimian county in Sichuan province was hit by the Wenchuan earthquake on May 12, 2008, and the Lushan earthquake in April.

The quake five years ago reduced many public facilities to rubble, but thanks to rebuilding efforts that focused on quake-proof construction, when the recent quake hit, schools and hospitals remained intact and public facilities reported no deaths or injuries.

"The most impressive buildings in our county are public facilities, especially our schools and hospitals," says Zhou Wanlong, deputy director of Shi-mian's information office.

Unlike the shabby houses and stores nearby, Shimian Middle School at the foot of a mountain is an eye-catching construction. It is only a stone's throw away from clusters of temporary houses for survivors whose homes were ruined by the quake on April 20.

The 21,332-square-meter school has two four-story teaching buildings, an office building and a playground.

"When the quake hit on April 20, all the students and teachers ran out within one and a half minutes," says Chen Jian, director of the school's teaching research office and a physics teacher for 18 years.

"There's no damage to our buildings. The school was rebuilt to withstand a magnitude-9 quake," Chen says, adding that the school returned to normal the day after the quake.

The rebuilding of the school cost about 16 million yuan ($2.6 million), which was donated by the Macao Special Administrative Region government.

According to the surveillance video from the day of the earthquake, teachers left their classrooms only after all the students had gotten out, says Chen. The quick response was thanks to the school undertaking many fire drills.

"After the Wenchuan earthquake, we made escape skills a compulsory course. Every year, we have at least two escape drills," says Cheng Dongxiu, president of Shi-mian Middle School.

Mao Huan, a senior student in her third year at the school, says she and her classmates were in a chemical class, when the quake hit on April 20. Desks started to shake violently and books fell to the ground. Their teacher asked them to run outside and waited until the last student left.

"Our teacher was too shocked to move. But she still asked us to go first. Eventually, a boy went back and left with her," says the 18-year-old student.

Minzu Middle School and Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital of Shimian county, also remained intact during the Lushan quake. Both were rebuilt to withstand a magnitude-9 quake.

The Minzu Middle School was helped by the Taiwan-based Straits Exchange Foundation, which gave a donation of 27.73 million yuan. The Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital received a donation of 19 million yuan from the Red Cross to assist their rebuilding efforts. The government of Shimian county invested tens of millions in rebuilding its schools and hospitals.

"We rebuilt our public facilities first. The government office is last on the rebuilding list," says Zhou, the local information officer.

Mountains surround the red-walled Minzu Middle School. Students are mainly from Tibetan and Yi ethnic groups.

The school previously moved to and from its original location five times because of the frequent quakes and landslides, says school president Zhang Wencai. But after its rebuilding post-2008, they do not need to move again.

"Our buildings were not at all affected by the quake. So the school returned to its normal routine on April 24," says Zhang.

The nine-story Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital dwarfs neighboring buildings. It has been operating as normal since the April quake.

In 2008, the hospital's surgery building was reduced to rubble. The hospital was rebuilt in a different location and construction was completed in 2011.

"We have improved a lot since the Wenchuan quake in terms of escape skills and emergency plans," says Yang Bing, president of the hospital.

Yang says they have regular earthquake drills and detailed emergency plans to deal with any sudden flood of patients wounded in quakes.

Sitting on the spot where three seismic fault lines meet, Shimian county will always be visited by landslides and earthquakes.

It was one of the six hardest-hit zones in the Wenchuan earthquake, but only two deaths were reported from the Lushan earthquake. Houses rebuilt since 2008 are either unaffected or only slightly damaged.

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