China Earthquake : Half Year from the Earthquake

6 months after an earthquake struck China on May 12, 2008, leaving more than 80,000 dead or missing, many still face difficulty in daily life. Most are still living in transitional shelters, and temporary pre-fab classrooms are used for school buildings.

In October, the Chinese government announced a 16 trillion yen three-year reconstruction project. Large support is especially required for the approximate 4.5 million families who lost their houses. Permanent shelter reconstruction stands as one of the top priorities of the Chinese Government’s recovery programme. Based on these needs, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is also planning to support permanent shelter reconstruction in one of the worst hit areas, as well as reconstruction of school and health service facilities in areas which do not have support from other provinces, etc.

In October, the JRCS (Japanese Red Cross Society) sent Mr. Isaka to Chengdu, Sichuan as a resident JRCS representative officer for the reconstruction projects which will be scaled up hereafter. The JRCS will work on the reconstruction projects by working closely together with the Red Cross Society of China and the IFRC on site.

In this issue, the present conditions of the afflicted areas are reported on based on a field trip by Mr. Isaka, who visited quake-hit areas which JRCS plans to support in Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi.

Housing: Residents of rural areas – living in housing reinforced with waste material or tents

Mianzhu, a city of Sichuan, is in a scenic rural area in which fields stretch out from the foot of the mountains. The city is located in one of the areas which suffered violent tremors from the earthquake. As a result of the earthquake, about 80% of the houses collapsed, and many people lost their lives.

In the area, most of the houses turned into rubble shortly after the earthquake. Heaps of rubble can still be seen here and there in the area even though 6 months have passed since the earthquake. And reconstruction of housing has not begun.

On the other hand, stretches of farming land in good condition indicates the people’s energy to live.

Affected families in urban areas live in temporary collective prefabricated housing constructed by the government. However, many of the affected families in rural areas, such as Mianzhu, still live in tents or self-built transitional shelters reinforced with plastic sheets and waste material collected from collapsed buildings. Many residents of the rural areas, originally economically-challenged, cannot begin housing reconstruction since they cannot afford the reconstruction money.

The JRCS is planning to support all 4,719 families in Mianzhu county, Sichuan province, who require housing reconstruction to reconstruct their homes. The JRCS will also distribute quilts and clothes to the affected population for the coming winter.

Schools: Beaming faces of children at temporary schools

From this new school year, which started in September, classes restarted at all schools in the afflicted areas of the earthquake. Many schools which had not collapsed were determined to be dangerous by the government since their ceilings and walls were cracked. Now these buildings are being taken down for reconstruction. Under such circumstances, students are taking classes at temporary prefabricated school buildings, or borrowed barns of nearby farms, etc.

The following is a report about the present condition of an elementary school in Gansu Province, written by the JRCS resident officer, Mr. Isaka, who visited the school.

It was difficult to find flat ground around the school. Roads are endlessly sloped and muddy. Liang Cun elementary school and junior high school were destroyed by the earthquake except for the outdoor lavatories.

Teachers and children collected desks and chairs out of classrooms horribly destroyed by the earthquake. And they use them at prefabricated classrooms without fixing them. Therefore, some chairs used in faculty rooms and classrooms are still damaged, cracked from falling roof debris.

The principal said, “The present condition of the schools is not good. However, though the school buildings have collapsed, no one got hurt since a school-wide event was being held in the playing ground when the earthquake occurred. So, I believe we were very lucky. Further, knowing that the JRCS will reconstruct our schools, I can’t help but think that luck is still on our side. Thank you very much in advance for your kind cooperation.”

Students are honest and friendly. When I pointed my camera at the children, they came close to me in curiosity. They welcomed my visit and smiled broadly as if construction of new school buildings were accomplished, though any work of construction has not been started yet. I heard that it was the first time for the children to meet a Japanese person. “I want to respond to their smile.” That’s how I felt after visiting the schools.

The JRCS is planning to support the reconstruction of 12 elementary schools and junior high schools in Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi.

Health service facilities: Spending winter at temporary hospitals

Hospitals and clinics of the villages of the afflicted areas were also damaged by the earthquake. They are also being taken down for reconstruction into safer facilities. At present, health services are provided in various conditions. Some are using both hospitals which were not damaged, and temporary prefabricated facilities, while others are borrowing private houses for their hospitalized patients. At some facilities, patients are forced to wait in a queue in the cold outside since the facilities do not have enough waiting rooms.

(above picture)
Li Enze (4 months), who had a sore throat, came with his grandmother to see a doctor at a temporary prefabricated hospital in Shannxi. His grandmother said that sometimes he shivers with cold as happened during the consultation when baring his chest.

The JRCS is planning to support the reconstruction of 29 hospitals and 28 clinics in villages in Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi.

Total support of the JRCS (As of 30 September, 2008)(Million Japanese Yen)

1. Emergency assistance operations (1,004)
1-1 Purchasing and transporting emergency relief supplies 997.5
1-2 Dispatch of office staff and others 6.5

2. Reconstruction assistance operations (4,154)
2-1 Reconstruction of individual residences 1,971
2-2 Reconstruction of schools 526
2-3 Reconstruction of health service facilities 465
2-4 Winterization support 282
2-5 Livelihood, disaster preparedness, health ERU and others 738
2-6 Storage of DP supplies for IFRC Asia Pacific Zone 90

3. Administration cost of operations, public relations 82

Total:5,158 million Japanese Yen