Sichuan, China – It was exactly 2:28 pm on May 12, 2008 when an 8.0 magnitude earthquake struck needing less than 10 seconds to kill at least 80,000 people and destroy over US$3 billion worth of properties in Southwestern China.
Wenchuan County in Sichuan Province was the epic center, where nearly all the towns crumbled and sunk under the earth.
A five storey public school building which had 1,537 students attending class that afternoon had almost all of it ruined. Many students lost their lives as well.
Now known as the ‘Great Sichuan Earthquake’, it is the worst since the establishment of new China in 1949 – the People’s Republic of China.
Though the world’s populous nation has also experienced 17 other earthquakes during those years.
It is about nine years now, rural residents, mostly Chinese minorities – Tibetans and Qing peoples - are reviving their lives.
The resonance of the devastation stills echoes in these affected rural communities, but their resilience seems surmountable.
The ruins of the school building in Ying Xiu Town still stands although three of its five storeys’ are sunk in the earth giving visitors or tourists a sense of recalling the catastrophe before empathizing with survivals.
It’s an unforgettable gruesome experience, but it appears that Wenchuan County, now with a population of 100,000 people, remains optimistic turning what is a very terrible past into a purse of goodies.
The provincial government says tourists’ interests in the area have grown since earthquake with the number doubling from around 200,000 a year to 800,000 and last year experienced a 40% increase.
Many young people in these areas work in the local booming tourism sector, while most elderly villagers concentrate on agriculture and others rely on pension benefits from government.
To augment the local tourism sector, the authority has turned the debris of the school campus into a museum - one of two museums established as a result of aftermath of the earthquake.
The other, a newly built museum, helps hypnotizes visitors into visualizing the grisly incident, displaying remnants of that faithful May 12.
Wreckage of destroyed homes, vehicles, and utensils, are being showcase and the photos of crucial events ensure visitors recall the interventions of medics and volunteers because of the corollary of the incident.
And these museums are helping raise revenue for the revitalization of the affected county while the resilience of survivals is evident by their psychosocial recovery.
Initial support from other provinces under what appeared like an each-one-help-one scheme rejuvenated the affected communities, helping many survivals put their broken pieces back together.
The intervention scheme was developed by the Sichuan administration, endorsed and supported by the central government, ensured individuals from non-affected communities directly aided victims to recover.
Moreover, 1.7 billion Yuan (over US$250 million) was invested by the provincial government for the reconstruction of new homes in 2011 to relocate worst hit town, also giving hope to many affected families.
The new buildings, according to the local administration, were designed to maintain balance and provide a better resilience to any future unforeseen earthquake.
Partial view of one of the towns built build in Wenchuan County after the earthquake (picture above). Authorities say over US$250 million was spent on the reconstruction of new towns
In Ying Xiu, a town with over 4,000 inhabitants, life has gone ‘pass the past’. Many people from scattered villages have amalgamated into the newly built big town.
Another newly constructed area, Dujiangyan community, have provided free housings for 342 families after 101 houses were constructed nine months after the earthquake.
These residents are people whom were extremely devastated by the earthquake, lost all their belongings and had to be relocated to start a new life.
Authorities say the development speed has upped from 10 to 20 since the earthquake taking just three years for the reconstruction and restoration of all basic social necessities in the area put at a cost of 9 billion Yuan (over US$1.3 billion).
Before 2008, it took six hours to travel from the Provincial capital, Chengdu to the county but the distance has been cut to three while construction of new roads linking several towns continues at a fast speed, the Sichuan provincial government says.
The overwhelming support have significantly revived the survivals of China’s most dreadful natural catastrophe in almost 70 years, but arguably; it is the unflinching resilience, fortitude and altruism of these rural residents that have driven such remarkable recovery in less than a decade.