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Quake survivor commits suicide

By Huang Zhiling  (China Daily)

08:31, June 18, 2013

Residents of Qinglongchang, a village in Lushan county, Sichuan province, gathered together to bid farewell to Zhang Zhirong on Monday morning at her burial.

Zhang, 40, took pesticide on Sunday afternoon, becoming the first known suicide in the aftermath of the magnitude-7 earthquake that struck Ya'an, a city that administers Lushan, on April 20.

The disaster left 193 people dead, 25 missing and 12,211 injured.

Zhang made headlines after an aftershock toppled a wall in her house on April 26, killing her 5-year-old son.

Zhang was devastated by her son's death. Fears over wages owed to her family contributed to her distress.

"Together with her husband, Fu Liangquan, her husband's brother Fu Liangbiao and his wife, Zhang had formed a construction team that built houses for villagers. She was hardworking and was on the job at least 300 days a year. She got up at 5 am to mix lime and sand and transport bricks," said Fu Mingquan, a 49-year-old farmer from the same village.

"Many houses they built were damaged in the quake, and villagers who were not rich were unable to pay them the 200,000 yuan ($32,787) in wages they were owed. She faced mounting pressure because she could not receive the hard-earned wages," she said.

After the Wenchuan earthquake in Sichuan in 2008, prefabricated houses were built to accommodate survivors. But getting rid of the houses proved difficult after permanent ones were built.

Drawing on experience from the Wenchuan earthquake, the government encouraged farmers in the Ya'an quake zone to build makeshift homes near their damaged houses in the spacious countryside, offering each household 3,000 yuan to build a makeshift house.

Many farmers in the quake zone built makeshift houses using doors, wood and windows from their damaged home.

But residents of the old street in Longmen township — the epicenter of the Ya'an quake — have not yet built makeshift homes because they are waiting for an announcement from the provincial government about a reconstruction plan.

The old street in Longmen township, which administers Zhang's village, had some 200 households before the quake.

"Anxiety is a common problem among many residents of the old street because their houses and many belongings were damaged in the quake. Although each village in Longmen has a psychological counselor from the Mianyang No 3 People's Hospital in Sichuan, residents say counselors cannot bring back their spacious houses," said Wang Zejun, the 44-year-old chief of Longmen Township Hospital.

"Many residents had houses with an area of 200 to 300 square meters. But a family of three might have a new house of only 105 square meters in line with the experience of the Wenchuan earthquake."

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