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Quake victims in Jilin struggle to rebuild lives

Updated: 2013-11-25 01:14
By Wang Qingyun in Beijing and Han Junhong in Songyuan, Jilin ( China Daily)

Relief work is helping people in a quake-hit area of Jilin province to make it through the winter, but those affected say they are hoping for swifter action to rebuild their lives.

Between Oct 31 and Sunday, the Qianguoerluosi Mongolian autonomous county in Jilin had 426 quakes, five of which measured between magnitude 5.0 and 5.9, according to the China Earthquake Administration.

Nearly 260,000 people have been affected and more than 45,000 evacuated. No casualties have been reported so far.

The county is under the jurisdiction of Songyuan city.

Two quakes on Saturday affected more than 57,000 people and caused 15,000 people to be evacuated.

The county government had already helped build makeshift houses for about 5,000 households before Saturday, said Tan Xiuquan, deputy head of the county. It will help build another 1,200 such houses to accommodate more than 6,000 households, he said.

Chaganhua township was heavily hit by the quakes and is the focus of much of the relief work.

The weather is not very cold currently, and heating equipment has been set up in the makeshift houses, said Cai Guofa, 44, a Yaoyingtu village man who now lives in a prefabricated house made of steel boards.

"Every tent is equipped with a radiator, and every prefabricated house is equipped with a heated bed to keep us warm," he said.

Cai said all the people in his village are living outside their houses, many in prefabricated houses or tents set up in the village, while some have left the village to live elsewhere.

Zhao Zhiqiang, 35, from Wulanhua in Chaganhua township, said he has been living in a tent with his wife and daughter for three days. Another family from the neighborhood is sharing the tent.

"It's about -6 C to -7 C at night. We can turn on electric radiators and electric blankets and put on lots of quilts. It's not very cold right now," he said, adding that the family will move into a prefabricated house when it's finished.

The county government said it is giving 7,000 yuan ($1,150) to each family whose house is not safe to live in so that they can rent a house or stay with their relatives elsewhere for a while. Those who don't want to move must pay part of the cost toward building their own prefabricated house for the winter.

"I really hope I can live in a safe house as soon as possible," said Cai. "They say we will probably have to wait until next year before new houses are constructed."

Selling the harvest is another concern of residents in the area, and it's one reason many are reluctant to leave.

Cai said that of the more than 1,000 households in his village, about two-thirds have not sold their harvest, because there is only one granary in town and it has a limited capacity.

Tan, deputy head of the county, said all the granaries in and around the quake-hit area are open for business and are buying corn for the same price as before the quakes.

"The price is low, but I have to sell it before any more aftershocks come, and then I must find a safe place to stay as soon as possible," Zhao said.

Cai said he has sent his wife and two children to live with relatives elsewhere. "We're panicked, " he said. "If the quakes end, my wife and children will come back. If they continue, we will have to evacuate."

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