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Earthquake commemoration unites nations at Shanghai Expo

SHANGHAI, May 12 (Xinhua) -- Chinese people at the Shanghai Expo Wednesday took time to remember the devastating earthquake that hit southwest China's Sichuan Province two years ago to the day.

Among the event's international community, people from Chile and Haiti also reflected on the earthquake tolls in their own countries.


In the Broad Pavilion, a long line of silent visitors waited to enter a 20-square-meter quake-proof house where an 8-magnitude earthquake was being simulated.

The strength of the simulation was the same as the tremor that left more than 80,000 people dead or missing in Sichuan.

Broad Company, a major air-conditioner maker in China, was trying to reproduce the destructive power with a shaking and thunderous noise that seemed to rock the small house seemed close to destruction.

"I feel great sympathy for the victims. My grief goes beyond words, and I can only pray that all people live in happiness, peace and health," said a monk from Gemeng Temple, Sichuan.

At 2:28 p.m., exactly the time the quake hit two years ago, all the people in the pavilion held a tribute. Commemorative poems were recited, describing the losses of family members, clearly moving many visitors.

Li Bin, deputy head of devastated Beichuan County, who was present, recalled, "Two years ago, buried under the debris, I was filled with fear of death and hope for life. Today, standing in the pavilion of a great Expo, all sorts of feelings well up in my mind."

Technological solutions to withstand earthquakes were also on display. Two years of research by Broad Company had resulted in a pavilion, which was propped up by light steel pillars above the ground.


Yi Yang, deputy director of the Sichuan Pavilion, rose early Wednesday so that he could arrive before the crowds.

Yi and representatives from Sichuan had prepared gifts for visitors to commemorate the quake and show gratitude for the help they had received.

With the arrival of visitors, seven girls of the Qiang ethnic minority sang folk songs and showed their needlework skills.

"The phoenix in our embroidery and the flower mentioned in our song carry the message of good luck and happiness. We want to give them to Expo visitors and all the people who helped us," said performer Yechu Nambar.

A member of the Qiang ethnic minority, Yechu Nambar is a native of Maoxian County of Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture. Her hometown was one of the areas hit hardest by the earthquake.

People from all walks of life and resources from around the country were sent to assist the Qiang and save their endangered folk culture.

"Today we can express our most sincere and heartfelt gratitude to all the people who helped us," she said.

Elements featuring the earthquake are noticeable at the Sichuan Pavilion. A digital screen depicts the relief operation and reconstruction.

In the "grateful Sichuan" exhibition area, visitors can leave a "digital handprint" on the wall to show their support.

A man surnamed Wei said he survived the earthquake and owed his gratitude to people from all over the country.

A native of Ya'an City, Wei said he had "chosen this very day to visit the Sichuan Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo."

"My hometown has changed a lot, and all people are welcome to visit," he said.

The anniversary reminded Li Yalin, deputy director of the Qinghai Province Pavilion, of Qinghai's own disaster last month.

The 7.1-magnitude earthquake that rocked Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture on April 14 killed at least 2,200 people.

Hu Jiachen, a postgraduate from the art school of Shanghai University, worked for more than two months to prepare the pavilion.

Decorated with the embossments of snow-covered mountains, grasslands and Tibetan herdsmen, it represented the simple and generous nature of the people.

"I hope the survivors can step out of the quake's shadow as soon as possible and I can go to Yushu to participate in the reconstruction," said Hu, 27.

A 15-minute video and pictures of the rescue operation and reconstruction had been included in the exhibition, said Li.

"The new parts raise questions regarding the Expo theme. What can we do to make quake-stricken areas like Yushu better places where people live better lives?" asked Li.


Foreign pavilion staff shared the sorrow. Hernan Somerville, Chilean General Commissioner to the Expo, expressed his support for the Chinese.

The South American country had participated as scheduled despite a devastating quake in February. The Chile Pavilion demonstrates the theme of "the city as a place of ties and communication between people."

"There is a well in our pavilion, through which we can see what happens in Santiago with the Internet. It demonstrates we can be friends, and close partners even we are far from each other," said Somerville.

The Chile Pavilion displays panoramas of quake-hit cities to remind visitors of the fearful power of nature.

"The quake has tightened the relations among Chileans. Many families live in the same building, but they barely know each other. After the quake, they helped each other and relied on each other. This is in accord with the theme of our pavilion, 'City of Relations'," said Danielle Cartes, a staff member.

Haiti was also recovering from its own disaster.

"The quake doesn't mean the end of world. Life goes on and we have to move on, to work, to do business and to rebuild the country," said Jean Walnard Dorneval, Haiti's trade and development representative in China. "We are here at the Expo to show Haitian people are strong and we are optimistic about the future."


For China Pavilion volunteer Chen Qiaoqiao, May 12 was both her 27th birthday and the second anniversary of Wenchuan earthquake.

Chen, from Dujiangyan City, one of the worst-hit areas, still remembers that "terrible day."

It seemed that "heaven was suddenly torn open, accompanied by rumbling noises from beneath the earth." With her colleagues, Chen fled from her office building.

"It was like a Hollywood disaster epic. Almost all the houses were rubble, and many people were buried under the ruins. We stood by, waiting for orders."

After half an hour, they were rushed to Dujiangyan Hospital of Traditional Medicine to assist those in need.

That day, Chen forgot about celebrating her 25th birthday.

On the third day after the quake Chen finally ate a bowl of rice transported from Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province. Everyday, she slept for four hours at most.

Her family suggested that she change her birthday date.

However, it never occurred to Chen that she would have her birthday in the Shanghai Expo Park with other volunteers, nicknamed "little cabbages" because of their green uniforms.

Chen, a junior procurator in Dujiangyan, applied to be a volunteer at the Expo because she wanted to help Shanghai, which formed a sister-city alliance with Dujiangyan after the earthquake.

Over the past two years, Shanghai has offered financial assistance and human resources to Dujiangyan to help with its revival.

"You would hardly believe your eyes if you visit Dujiangyan today, as new buildings have risen thanks to the selfless help of Shanghai people."

Chen kept her personal birthday wish to herself, but she had a bigger wish. "I sincerely wish Shanghai Expo a great success and the quake-stricken Sichuan a bright future."

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