Residents of Weizhou face long Saturday, January 24 2009
More than eight months have passed since the devastating Sichuan earthquake. In a four-part series on how victims are preparing for the Lunar New Year, Al Guo visits four communities and finds some people are celebrating more than others.
Today: Wenchuan county
Wenchuan county was not hit as hard by the earthquake as people initially feared, but there is still a long way to go until the lives of its people return to normal.
The county seat, Weizhou, was cut off from the outside world for a week, and many feared that floods or landslides had killed most of the town's 30,000 inhabitants.
The county logged 131 dead and 46 missing in the quake. Seven thousand people were injured. It suffered far fewer casualties than towns such as Yingxiu , Beichuan and Qingchuan.
"We were pretty lucky in that regard [the number of casualties], as the landslide here was as bad as everything else around Longmen Mountain," said Li Jie , the county's chief spokesman and a core member of the team in charge of its rebuilding.
Guangdong was assigned by the central government to help Wenchuan's rebuilding efforts, and people arriving from the southern province were relieved to see most buildings in the county still standing.
Mr Li was quick to point out to them that their initial impression was false - most of the buildings had suffered severe internal damage. In the end, most had to be torn down because they were dangerous to live in.
Guangdong and the central government promised loans and donations for rebuilding.
However, geologists said Weizhou was too unstable to house many people. They said it sat over the quake's epicentre and there was big risk of landslides on the steep slopes of the mountains that ring the town. Based on their evaluation, Wenchuan officials decided to divide the county seat into four areas. The county government would remain in Weizhou, and new educational, cultural and business areas would be developed in flat areas across the county.
Qiao Xianzong is against the idea of moving out of Weizhou. He lives in a temporary home 5km north of the town with his daughter's family. "I don't want to go," Mr Qiao, 53, said. "I just need a place to live in Weizhou and nothing, not even another quake, will change my mind."
Zhang Yan , who owns a clothing store and who escaped a landslide in Yingxiu, said dispersing the population in the county seat would deal its businesses a big blow.
"I don't make any money now, and dispersing the local population will surely force many people out of business here," Ms Zhang said. "Few people in Weizhou are farmers and AKproviding services is the only way many people have of making a living."
However, some residents would not mind moving into permanent homes elsewhere. Among them is Yang Fang . "I was born here, but it doesn't mean I will die here. I will take whatever apartments the government will offer," Ms Yang said.
County court Judge Zhang Youqing says he can see from what happens in his courtroom that the psychological impact of the quake is waning. "With more economic disputes being brought before us, I think some people have started to shift their focus a? back to real life," he said. 30 Mar Building starts in Sichuan on Homes for Hope project