CHINA> Regional
Hope begins afresh for May 12 quake survivors
By Fu Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-02-25 10:04

Bleak business

Yingxiu town was one of the towns devastated in the quake. Today, local residents have started picking up the threads again by doing small business or planting crops after subsisting on government subsidy for over six months.

Zeng Xiaohong is one such person. The 27-year old Zeng hails from a Tibetan minority and opened a tiny restaurant in the temporary shelter community three months ago. It is called the "Reunion Restaurant" as three of her five family members reunited with her after being seriously injured in the quake.

During the daytime Zeng lays three tables in a 9-sq-m room in the lines of temporary shelters while the kitchen is between two lines of shelters. And at night, she puts tables together, sparing room for a mattress on which her husband, four-year-old son and she can sleep.

In the restaurant, her husband is the cook while the mother-in-law doubles up as the waitress. Her father-in-law is the baby-sitter.

"Business is bleak and sometimes we can earn 200 yuan a day but sometimes, no one comes at all," said Zeng, whose husband used to be a truck driver in a local factory but became jobless after the medicine factory was reduced to a rubble in the quake.

As Zeng's town is the epicenter of the quake, visitors come in hordes often driving their own cars. Before fallen school buildings, scarred mountains and long broken or dangerous one-way road sections, they take pictures, sigh and offer condolences.

The Sichuan provincial tourism office said tourism in Southwest China's quake-hit province is now showing signs of revival. It attracted 16.5 million tourists during the Spring Festival holiday, up 21.9 percent from the same period last year. Earthquake tours in the county attracted more than 100,000 visitors during the holidays and helped revive small businesses.

"But I still think they are hesitant about spending money here," said Zeng. "Most of them come to my restaurant but politely walk away after seeing the simple settings." After the travails and the trauma of the quake, Zeng and her family find happiness in just being together even though business is still weak.

Around the epicenter Yingxiu town, there are three temporary community shelters housing thousands of families whose homes disappeared or were destroyed. Zhou Kaihua's Yuzixi community lives in the second shelter alongside a mountain near which are piled the rubble and the debris of the quake.

The 37-year old Zhou and her villagers are busy planting tea trees. Her husband is working as road safety checker at dangerous points to stop vehicles and passers-by when stones and mud fall from the mountains.

Zhou's husband earns 50 yuan a day, the main income for the four-member family. Their elder son has been sent to Shanxi province to continue schooling, while the daughter is in a local primary school in the temporary shelter.

"Life is tough and even we don't know where the money to build a new home will come from," said Zhou. But her family feels happy. "We survived and that's enough."

What makes Zhou even happier is that she had managed to meet Premier Wen Jiabao when he spent Lunar New Year eve here three weeks ago. "I joined the drum team and, luckily, shook hands with the Premier," said Zhou. "From our heart, we felt the State leaders are with us and they have made painstaking efforts for us in post-recovery."

But different from Zhou is the 24-year-old Yang Ying, a heroine who gave birth to a son on the night of May 12 in Sanjiang town, and is well prepared to earn her living alongside her husband by constructing homes for villagers.

"Many of those who lost their homes are prepared to rebuild this year and I think there are enough jobs ahead," said Yang, whose Sanjiang town is a forty-minute ride through the mountains.

The post-quake recovery is expected to involve 1-trillion-yuan investment over three years and is progressing smoothly. All the quake-hit farmers will move into new homes by this September and about 70 percent of key post-recovery projects are likely to be completed by the year-end.