2008-06-12 11:51:16 GMT 2008-06-12 19:51:16 (Beijing Time) Xinhua English
GUANGYUAN CITY, Sichuan, June 12 (Xinhua) -- One month on: the street lamps are still bright, yet the streets are left in solitude with only a few pedestrians and motor vehicles passing through.
The May 12 earthquake, which jolted the southwest province of Sichuan, killed more than 69,000 people and left over 17,000 missing and five million homeless, has slowed the living rhythm in Guangyuan and changed the overall sentiment of the city.
The riverside avenue has lost its once bustling landscape featuring local residents drinking beer and playing mah-jong. One month after the quake, a five-km-long tent camp for more than 10,000 households was erected instead.
One week after the mighty quake, some dared to sleep back at home. But on May 25, a 6.4-magnitude aftershock hit Qingchuan of Guangyuan and left local residents even more scared. Tent camps have since expanded rapidly to riverside, squares, parks and gardens. Almost every empty space in the city has been occupied by tents, which have so far numbered 40,000 to 50,000.
Rough statistics show that out of 300,000 local residents, 60,000 to 70,000 people from nearly 20,000 households had their homes toppled or left in danger by the quake.
In daytime, it is too hot for survivors to stay in the tents. Before 9 a.m., they walk out of their temporary shelters -- doing petty business, meeting friends or wandering around to ask about possible jobs.
Local police, now and then, have to deal petty disputes and frictions among the tent population. From 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., they patrol the camp areas to ensure security.
It was believed that a report by the local government had brought hope for local residents.
The report said by June 6, 121 major enterprises, or 55 percent, of the city's total, had resumed operation. This was together with 75 percent of local commerce businesses, mainly restaurants, convenience stores and supermarkets.
However, "Few people have begun to consume and there is little cargo to be transported," said Zhou Wenge, a 42-year-old who worked in transport business before the quake.
"What if I can't find a job?" she asked, the worry evident on her face.
With the absence of a pillar industry, Guangyuan had many people engaged in commerce and transport services. Enterprises that had just resumed operation were still haunted by aftershocks and lacked working capital. Restoring operation at the pre-quake level would take time. This implied production and jobs would have to be cut for the time being.
Guangyuan is not unique among quake-stricken areas. Some called for more government preferential policies to support the restoration before wishes for a "back to normal life" turned into overwhelming anxiety.
The city planned to move 7,000 households to prefabricated homes on June 25. Another 13,000 would be gradually moved to makeshift homes thereafter.
According to the municipal government, the eastern Zhejiang Province, which was assigned to support Guangyuan in its reconstruction, was arranging employment opportunities for Sichuan quake survivors.