by Ding Zhitao
CHENGDU, June 25 (Xinhua) -- Hiding at the end of a brand-new mountain road, Hongbai Town, deep in the mountainous Sichuan Province, welcomes visitors with its majestic two-story gray-and-white buildings and the smiling faces of its residents.
The distinct local dialect fills the air as townspeople sit on bamboo chairs outside a convenience store and go about their daily routines. It is just another tranquil midday in this summer.
A museum serves as a reminder of a less serene afternoon just three years ago when the Earth shook violently, claiming more than 1,000 lives in the town.
Only 20 km away from the epicenter of the devastating Wenchuan earthquake of May 12, 2008, Hongbai was hit the hardest in Shifang City. Photos of the disaster and debris from the ruins fill the museum telling of the town's darkest hours.
These days, villagers in Hongbai are more eager to tell a different story-the story of recovery and reconstruction.
HELP FROM AFAR
The 8.0-magnitude earthquake that hit Sichuan and neighboring Gansu and Shaanxi provinces claimed 69,277 lives, leaving another 374,176 in need of serious medical attention. To date, more than 18,000 people are missing. In the immediate wake of the disaster, 4.8 million people were left homeless.
On June 11, 2008, the State Council, China's Cabinet, unveiled a partnership assistance program, requiring 18 provinces and municipalities each to assist the reconstruction of a quake-affected city or county in these areas.
Beijing was one of the first to respond to the Central Government's call. Eight construction companies from Beijing, which had built venues of the 2008 Olympic Games, were some of the first to arrive in Shifang.