China

China: Earthquake survivors bracing for winter

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By Francis Markus, IFRC

The rich golden colour of hundreds of maize cobs hanging outside to dry is the first thing you notice after climbing the slight incline to Liang Tiancheng's farmhouse.

The second thing you see, under various layers of tarpaulin and sheeting, is the Red Cross Red Crescent tent that has been the temporary home to Mr. Liang, 65, and his wife Wu Xianzhen, 61, since their house was damaged in Sichuan's massive earthquake on May 12.

Since they do not know when they will have the funds to start rebuilding their house, it looks certain that they will have to spend the winter making themselves as comfortable as they can. "We might add another layer of rice straw for extra insulation," says Mr. Liang. Unlike those who lived in shattered towns, these rural dwellers do not have access to government-built temporary shelters.

Eye-catching

As for the eye-catching maize cobs, they tell a story too. Local people use maize both for human consumption and for pig feed.

"We lost our pigs in the earthquake, so we do not have any pigs to feed the maize to right now. However, we shall keep them for a year and use them when we have rebuilt our pigsty," says Mr. Liang, adding that rebuilding their own house will be the first priority.

Breeding pigs is one of the mainstays of the economy in this little village called Xin Kai, just outside the township of Hanwang. It was badly hit by the disaster. Buildings collapsed and the town clock is poignantly halted at 14:28, the time the earthquake struck.

Immediate aftermath

But the pork brought in from outside to meet the demand in the immediate aftermath of the quake is going to make it hard for farmers here to compete in price and quantity. Local farmers complain that meat is expensive to the consumer in the market, but the price they get paid for it is low.

Those are all issues for the future, though. For now, the couple, who are living in a tent provided by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), are focusing on keeping warm throughout the winter months.

To help people like them and their neighbours, both the Red Cross Society of China and the IFRC are providing additional warm quilts in the earthquake zone before the onset of the cold winter.