Sichuan residents settle into new homes

By Li Li (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-02-01 08:01
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WENCHUAN, Sichuan - Residents of a town situated in the epicenter of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake are moving in to new homes days ahead of the Chinese New Year.

Yingxiu town, in Wenchuan county, was completely destroyed during the earthquake, which occurred on May 12, 2008. A year or so later, cleaning and construction work has caused 1,600 new apartments to be built up from the ruins. More than 1,000 Yingxiu town families started moving to the residences this week.

"I've waited for this moment for two years," said Zhang Qingfang, who just took up quarters in her new home.

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The 39-year-old woman lost her husband during the earthquake. She and her 11-year-old daughter have since been living with relatives.

After the disaster, Zhang and other survivors in Yingxiu town received governmental aid payments of 500 yuan ($76) a month. Many stayed with relatives or used the money to rent lodging in other towns or counties. But now, with the completion of the new apartments, Yingxiu people are moving back.

"Finally, a place of my own," Zhang said, with tears in her eyes.

Zhang's new home is a 90-square-meter three-bedroom apartment on the second floor of a three-story building.

She bought the place for 770 yuan a square meter, an amount brought below the original price of 2,000 yuan a square meter by subsidies given to the construction company that built the residence.

Altogether, government subsidies and financial support from social organizations and enterprises helped to ensure that Zhang paid less than 30,000 yuan for the entire apartment.

All of the new residential buildings in Yingxiu town have two or three stories and are designed to resist earthquakes.

"Although the buildings are mostly finished, there are still lots of problems with the water and electricity supply," said Peng Jianjun, deputy chief of Yingxiu town, whose mobile phone is constantly ringing these days. "The severe cold weather has slowed down our construction."

In order to deal with faults in the apartments' interiors as soon as possible, a contingency squad of plumbers and electricians has been organized from among the Yingxiu residents themselves.

They inspect various buildings and make repairs every day. Zhao Xianmin, an electrician, said the need for such work is often pressing.

"These cables provide electricity to several residential buildings," said Zhao, who was repairing a small power hub outside the relics of the Xuankou High School in the dark, while holding a flashlight. "I need to fix them tonight."

To restore the town in the shortest possible time, Yingxiu officials have formed groups to persuade former villagers to move back. And there have been offers of various incentives.

"Each family will receive 2,000 yuan as a reward if they move back in time," said Peng, the deputy chief.

"We are trying to ensure that 80 percent of Yingxiu residents will live in new apartments before the Chinese New Year."