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Quake-hit Town Closed to Tourists for Reconstruction

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Downtown Yingxiu, the worst hit township in last year's 8.0-magnitude earthquake, was closed to tourists on Wednesday for reconstruction.

Wu Kaiming, chief of the publicity department with Wenchuan County Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), said all organizations and individuals must acquire special permits before entering the area and the closure will last till January 31, 2010.

The devastation in Yingxiu has attracted between 4,000-10,000 tourists daily, according to Xu Hongjun, deputy Party boss of Yingxiu.

As for the 1,400 families still living there, Xu said they will have to temporarily relocate and stay with either relatives or rent an apartment. The government will provide each of them with an unspecific amount of subsidies.

The most destructive quake in China's history struck Sichuan's Wenchuan county and affected some parts of Shaanxi and Gansu provinces May 12, 2008. More than 87,000 people were killed or are still missing. Property loss was valued at more than 800 billion yuan (US$117 billion).

Of the total death toll, 6,566 people died in Yingxiu which hada population of 16,000. Houses and infrastructure was destroyed.

The reconstruction plan for the town has been drafted by Shanghai-based Tongji University in cooperation with Dongguan Designs Academy of south China's Guangdong Province. It was approved by the Sichuan Provincial Government early last month, according to Wu.

In accordance with the plan, Yingxiu will be a tourist center showcasing ethnic Tibetan and Qiang cultures. The population in urban areas will be restricted to 5,000. Before the quake, residents in downtown Yingxiu totaled 4,000.

Newly constructed civilian buildings will be able to sustain quakes measuring eight on the Richter scale, while schools be designed to survive 9-magnitude quakes.

Dongguan City has been assigned to assist Yingxiu township with its reconstruction which is estimated to cost 2 billion yuan (US$294 million), said Wu.

(Xinhua News Agency June 3, 2009)