Du Fu, one of China's most renowned poets who lived 1,200 years ago, once wrote, "When will there be tens of thousands of houses, to shelter all the homeless and poor in this world?" These words reverberated in the minds of many Chinese this Spring Festival as their thoughts went out to survivors of the devastating earthquake that jolted southwest China's Sichuan Province last May, wondering whether they had food and shelter to celebrate the most important festival in the Chinese calendar. The earthquake killed nearly 70,000 people and destroyed tens of thousands of houses in a flash. To find out how local people spent their first post-earthquake Spring Festival, Beijing Review sent reporters to Beichuan County and Dujiangyan City, which were the worst damaged areas.
Whether in a temporary prefabricated house or a newly built home, or even a house that survived the earthquake with cracks on the wall, our staff found salted preserved pork and red lanterns hung outside houses and red paper couplets stuck on the sides of each door. This simple but important upholding of tradition shed light on an unyielding spirit.
Donations of clothing and money have reached earthquake-affected areas from across the world. According to statistics from the Department of Civil Affairs of Sichuan Province, as of November 12, 2008, Sichuan had received 492,000 donated quilts and 401,000 items of donated winter clothing from outside the province. The winter daily necessities are still flowing into the province from other parts of the country. Permanent housing for survivors is under construction and over 1,000 households moved into their new houses before the Spring Festival.
This winter, the Central Government allocated relief subsidies totaling 1.67 billion yuan ($244.5 million) to provide basic living necessities for earthquake survivors.
In Wenchuan, the epicenter of the 8.0-magnitude earthquake, work has begun on 80 percent of farmers' houses needing reconstruction. It is estimated that the housing reconstruction in rural areas will be completed before October, while all urban residents' damaged houses will be rebuilt by the end of this year.
Of course, people in earthquake-affected areas will still face enormous workloads of reconstruction after the Spring Festival celebrations. Only 17 percent of homes have been rebuilt. A large population still does not have a place they can really call home. Yet this Spring Festival has brought them a lot of good news. For example, central and local governments will spend more money for economic rejuvenation on projects directly related to people's lives, and other provinces and municipalities will launch more relief projects in earthquake-affected areas.
For the strong people surviving the disaster, there is hope for tomorrow.