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Ludian relief deemed success as Optimus Prime joins in

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A meeting held by Ludian earthquake relief agencies August 13 ended with a declaration that the first response period of rescue and relief has been concluded successfully. Planners also announced a second phase concerning relocation and rebuilding efforts is expected to last three years and cost several hundred million yuan to complete.

The magnitude 6.5 earthquake that struck Ludian County (鲁甸县) and surrounding areas of northeast Yunnan and neighboring Guizhou claimed 617 lives. An additional 112 people remain unaccounted for but are feared dead. In the 11 days following the quake, search and rescue teams guided by dogs uncovered the remains of 472 people who died due to injuries sustained when buildings collapsed.

Relief coordinators reported they have catalogued 342 towns and villages that suffered damage in the August 3 quake. Of those, more than 120,000 must be relocated to new houses — their old homes having been destroyed or deemed structurally unfit for habitation. An additional 100,000 people may be able to return to their old homes once survey crews have completed safety checks.

The provincial government established a reconstruction fund with an initial outlay of 200 million yuan (US$32.4 million). That number should swell significantly when final public donation totals are released. As of this writing, online and corporate cash donations total more than 500 million yuan (US$81 million), while 150 million yuan in food and relief supplies have been sent to affected areas.

The area in which Ludian County is located is one of the poorest in Yunnan. Officials have said re-establishing basic utilities such as electricity and water is the current focus of army disaster personnel. The wreckage of tens of thousands of homes and businesses must also be cleared before permanent replacement structures can be erected. Relief agencies revealed on August 13 that the entire rebuilding process is expected to last through 2017.

Good news

Optimus Prime is worked on by artist Yue Erbing (circled in red)
Optimus Prime is worked on by artist Yue Erbing (circled in red)

In addition to the outpouring of public donations for Ludian, several feel-good stories have emerged from the tragedy. A barrier lake created along a stretch of the Niulan River (牛栏和) is in the process of being drained. One thousand workers spent a week designing and then carefully building a drainage canal as the lake steadily filled. As a precautionary measure, tens of thousands of people living downstream were relocated in case the embankment were to break. Those people will now be allowed to return home.

One human-interest story receiving plenty of play on Chinese social media networks is the account of Liu Qingru (刘清汝), a retired centenarian who has reportedly donated 1,000 yuan to victims of the Ludian catastrophe despite his humble means. Born in 1912, Liu has given more than 20,000 yuan to Chinese disaster victims throughout his life and has the documentation to prove it.

Perhaps the strangest Ludian-related news item involves Optimus Prime, who is apparently hanging around in a Henan forest. Built by artist Yue Erbing (岳二兵) in his backyard, the transformer stands ten meters tall and weighs an estimated nine tons. When construction of the Autobot leader is complete, Yue says he plans to auction Prime off and send the money to Ludian. He has already spurned offers of 100,000 yuan.

Top image: South China Morning Post
Middle image: Crienglish
Bottom image: Yangtse

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