China is marking the first anniversary of the devastating earthquake that struck the southwest of the country. More than 80,000 people died in the eight-magnitude quake in the province of Sichuan. Survivors and mourners have filed into ruined towns to remember the victims.
Zhao Junhong, an earthquake survivor, said: “For those who experienced this quake, we will never forget it. When you are back here, you can feel the earth move like the waves in the ocean.” Beijing says just over 5,300 children died or remain missing, with schools among the buildings that were not strong enough to resist the tremor. Given China’s strict family policies, many parents lost an only child. Zhu Wenxiu, the mother of a boy who died, said: “I’ve been thinking about him every day. I haven’t worked in the past year. I haven’t wanted to go anywhere. Every night when I close my eyes, I start to think about my child. Sometimes I cry all night long until dawn.” Many parents blame shoddy construction for the deaths, pointing out that apartment blocks and government buildings survived while nearby schools instantly collapsed. Unofficial figures say more than 9,000 children and teachers died. Many parents say their claims have not been properly investigated. Mu Cuipin, another mother of a child who was killed, said: “We accept the earthquake has a part to play in the destruction, but we’d also like to know the proportion of metal and cement used for this five-storey building. But the government won’t do this for us.” As well as those who died, more than 300,000 others were injured. In a Red Cross rehabilitation centre in the city of Deyang, amputees come hoping to be fitted with artificial limbs. For many survivors, charities are their only source of help. Fu Cangyan, one of those injured in the quake, said: “Of course it is difficult, but I have to be brave in the face of challenges. I have been really moved by the staff here. I must carry on, and rely on nobody but myself.” The Chinese President says reconstruction efforts are a testament to national strength, but those words will ring hollow for the families still struggling to cope, living in makeshift shelters.