It has now been one year since the catastrophic 8.0-magnitude earthquake slammed Sichuan Province on May 12, 2008. At 2:28 p.m. on that terrible day, the most destructive calamity to hit China in 60 years struck directly under Wenchuan County. In the end, 68,712 people died, more than 10,000 were missing and hundreds of thousands of families were scattered.
The earthquake left a vast range of destruction in its wake--more than 2 million people were injured and needed treatment, 500,000 square km of land was affected, millions of homes were destroyed and direct economic losses exceeded 800 billion yuan ($117 billion).
In the past 365 days, many have contributed tirelessly to the rescue, relocation, reconstruction and production recovery of the affected area.
As of April 30, domestic and international donations to the quake-hit region stood at 76.712 billion yuan ($11.2 billion), according to data from the Ministry of Civil Affairs. About 150,000 volunteers went to the area and a continuous stream of psychiatrists, doctors and teachers visited the temporary houses and camps set up after the disaster. Over the past year, 360 billion yuan ($53 billion) has been invested in reconstruction projects in Sichuan and neighboring Gansu and Shaanxi provinces. So far, 99.5 percent of rural houses have been repaired and 98 percent of affected businesses and factories have been restarted. An aid fund for Sichuan Province from 18 provinces and municipalities has grown to 40 billion yuan ($5.86 billion). Among more than 3,300 schools that had to be rebuilt in 39 badly-hit counties, construction on 70 percent has already begun, and over 95 percent of displaced students will have moved to new permanent schools by the end of this year.
People in the affected area worked with their own hands to rebuild for the future. The sounds of lessons being taught in schools, the curling smoke emanating from kitchen chimneys, the sweat on farmers' brows all attested to the strength and bravery of the survivors.
We are here--still mourning for the victims, still praying for the wounded and still offering our hopes and best wishes for the survivors, just as we did last year. But now we also offer something more--our great pride in those who have cobbled together their broken lives and who are struggling forward with hands busy creating their own renewal. We know the survivors will build an area more beautiful and warm than it ever was before.