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Last Year's Devastating China Earthquake Leaves Behind City of Rubble

The city in southwest China's Sichuan province that arguably bears the biggest scars from last year's devastating earthquake is Beichuan, a valley town that in its heyday was home to 170,000 people. VOA visited Beichuan, where people remember their loved ones lost amid the ruins, as authorities move ahead with plans to rebuild the ruined city in a different location.

Chen Yuhong, and what's left of his family, came to Beichuan to pay their respects to the dead.

This pile of rubble is all that remains of his sister's house. When the powerful quake struck last year, his parents were visiting to help look after her three year old child. Shortly after the ground stopped shaking, Chen helped pull out all three of their bodies from the ruins.

"I've been inside this hole many times. I dug out this hole," he said. "At first, I went in and out of the rubble many times. After awhile though, the authorities said I could not do that anymore."

The quake completely demolished Beichuan.

Government buildings crumbled. Even the police station was not spared. Policeman Long Ge was away that day.

"There were 11 colleagues in the police station. Seven of them died," he said.

He says he continues to see his fallen comrades in his dreams.

One of the most heart-stopping piles of rubble used to be the Beichuan Middle School, where more than 1,000 students died.

With the old city in ruins, authorities are moving away from the bad memories and rebuilding Beichuan in a different, safer, location.

He Wang is in charge of the urban planning and design for the new Beichuan city.

"The big challenge we face now is also the housing problem for the citizens of the old town and the homeless farmers. That's a big problem," Wang said.

The 4,000 Beichuan residents living in the Yongxing Zhen temporary community, outside of nearby Mianyang city, are eager to have permanent homes, but do not know when they can move.

Ms. Liu lives with her husband in a 20 square meter room. She is feeling displaced and uncertain about the future. The quake took her home and her grown daughter, so now she depends on government handouts.

"The children who made money are all dead, so I don't have any income," she said.

As authorities clear land for the new Beichuan, they have had to force hundreds of other families to leave their homes.

A banner in the wheat fields promises residents the sooner they allow their house to be demolished, the sooner they will live in a modern new city.

And with the rapid pace of rebuilding in the quake-struck region, evicted residents can at least make a little extra money recovering the bricks from their demolished homes for resale.