CHINA / National

Ceremony marks Tangshan tragedy
By Zhao Huanxin (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-07-29 06:04

TANGSHAN: Thirty years after the devastating earthquake residents in this North China city nurse mixed feelings. While they mourn the loss of family and friends, they bear long-standing gratitude to their rescuers and pride in their achievements.

This feeling reached a climax on Friday, July 28. In the early morning of this day in 1976 the industrial city in Hebei Province was levelled by the deadliest earthquake of the 20th century, in which at least 240,000 people lost their lives.

"The quake is a catastrophe in human history, but it failed to crush the spirit of the heroic Tangshan people," Bai Keming, chief of the Hebei Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), told a commemorative ceremony.

The city has picked up the pieces and is thriving again, thanks to the care and concern of the central government, selfless support from all walks of life throughout the country, and Tangshan people's hard work, Bai said.

For one thing, Tangshan's gross domestic product grew by 15.1 per cent year-on-year to reach 202.7 billion yuan (US$25.3 billion) in 2005, ranking it first place in Hebei. The economy has grown 25-fold since 1975, a year before the quake, official statistics indicate.

Building on its current achievements, Bai pledged that Tangshan would show the world a "miracle" by speeding up its economic and social development in the years ahead.

Bai said: "30 years on, we've never forgotten the victims of the tragedy, but we should carry on our lives with courage, confidence and hope."

Zhang He, secretary of the Tangshan municipal committee of the CPC, singled out the People's Liberation Army (PLA) as the "most adored people" at Friday's commemorative gathering.

At least 100,000 servicemen rushed to the ruins of Tangshan to save lives and help rebuild the city immediately after the quake.

Friday's activities also included presenting flower baskets to the monument for the citizens and rescuers that died.

Hundreds of people gathered around the monument square in the centre of the city.

Among them was Tian Baolin, 71, whose wife was paralyzed by the earthquake. He pedalled a tricycle for 3 hours from their suburban home to witness the flower-laying ceremony.

Tian said he wanted to show his wife what the city looks like now.

Stephen Hammes, a businessman from Tangshan's sister city in the United States, Cedar Rapids of Iowa state, said he was surprised how modern the city now is.

He said Tangshan had done an "excellent job" in engineering and architecture to help the city withstand future earthquakes, and also educate ordinary people how to protect themselves should disaster strike again.

(China Daily 07/29/2006 page1)


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