Mid-Autumn Festival in mudslide-hit China region

Updated: 2010-09-22 17:21
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ZHOUQU, Gansu - How to celebrate a family reunion festival after one's loved ones died in a disaster? On the first Mid-Autumn Festival after the deadly mudslide in Northwest China's Gansu province, many struggle to get by.

"How could I have anything planned for the festival when all my family died in the mudslide?" said Tan Jinchao, 55.

Tan lost his father, wife and 15-year-old son and his home in the deadly mudslide that struck Zhouqu county on August 8.

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At least 1,471 people were killed as the devastating mudslide ripped many houses from their foundations and tore multi-story apartment buildings in half.

Tan lives with his relative now and the county government invited people like Tan who lost their families to help in the reconstruction so that they could get a daily pay of 70 yuan ($10.4).

"I can support myself now with plenty of food and clothes, but it kills me to miss them on this special day," said Tan, who tried to chock back tears as he spoke.

More than one month has passed since the tragedy, but Tan has not changed his clothes ever since, and his deep blue hat is covered with dust.

Liu Qingming, 67, lost seven children and grand children. On Wednesday, she was accompanied by her niece to visit their home, although only the roof is above the debris.

"It shouldn't be me who is still alive. They are so young," mumbled Liu, who is still struggling to come to terms with what has happened.

Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese lunar calendar, which falls on September 22 this year. It is when the moon is supposedly at its fullest and brightest and families come together and eat the traditional delicacy, the mooncake.

Pupils of Zhouqu's No 1 Primary School received letters and school supplies from Ningbo city of East China's Zhejiang province.

Students from the primary school, which was destroyed in the mudslide, now have classes in the middle school campus while the middle schoolers, more than 3,000 in total, have been transferred to four schools in the provincial capital Lanzhou city and Dingxi city.

A letter written by Ningbo student Jiang Qier to Zhouqu's Nian Wenhui reads that "I can't say I understand your pain since I have never experienced anything similar before. But be strong and I am with you."

The bustling market in Zhouqu was packed with pre-festival shoppers even two days before the festival.

"It is our tradition to have mooncake. Life has to move on," said a woman surnamed Wang who bought mooncake at Qingfeng supermarket.

"People are much closer with each other now. Even strangers often ask about how each other is holding up when they buy fruit from me," said Yang Miaoyan, a fruit peddler.

In Yushu of northwest China's Qinghai province where a deadly earthquake killed thousands and left many more homeless on April 14, people living in tents are looking forward to their new houses which are part of the government's reconstruction plan.

On Wednesday, Lhapa Yutso, 37, went again to see her new house in construction, her 4-month-old daughter in arms.

"We will have a house very soon. I am very grateful," She said. "The pink roof and white walls all look so lovely."