DUJIANGYAN, China – In the heart of this disaster-stricken city, Luo Tingcai is almost giddy about his new digs. On Friday, his family of five was preparing to spend its first night in a single 10-by-12-foot room with three little beds, part of a temporary housing village that is rapidly rising from the rubble.
"We'll just line up side by side," he said.
|Kari Huus / msnbc.com|
|Sitting on one of three beds in their new temporary housing unit in the Xinfu Resettlement area are, from left to right, Luo Min, Xu Xueyin, Chen Tonhua, Luo Tincai, and Xu Luoxing.|
It's a humble shelter, but nonetheless a huge improvement. Luo's family – including his 83-year-old mother-in-law – spent the first few days in the streets after the May 12 earthquake flattened the five-story apartment building where they had been living. They were then fortunate enough to find a spot in a tent city set up by the military.
Their luck held this week. Amid millions of people left homeless and displaced from the quake, Luo and his family are among the first 30 families to be housed in what is being called the Xinfu Resettlement area. Within a few days, organizers here say, it will house 3,000 families, or about 10,000 people.
A village of these prefab units, donated by a local construction company, was rising up around Luo's family on Friday. Earnest volunteers from around China were delivering beds to row upon row of the new units, while workers drilled, painted, wired the units and installed loudspeakers and the military unloaded crates of water and food from trucks. A medical care unit with a staff of about 30 is already in place. The government will cover the ongoing expense of running the village.
|Kari Huus / msnbc.com|
|People's Liberation Army soldiers carry supplies through Xinfu Resettlement area in Dujiangyan, which is slated to house 10,000 people made homeless by the earthquake.|
All of this has come about in less than three days, according to a government foreign affairs staffer. Meantime, she said that construction of another resettlement center twice the size is getting under way just up the street.
Strangely, the whole city of Dujiangyan, a city of about 300,000 that was devastated by the quake 11 days ago, has the feel of a boomtown today. The stadium and a college sports field that served as refuge have been vacated and were being cleared of rubbish and sprayed with disinfectant. Damaged buildings are being demolished and removed throughout the area, and people are moving by truck, taxi and pedicab from their encampments in the rubble.
Of course, this is just a start. An estimated 5 million people were left homeless by the quake. And in months to come, people who are now happy with a glorified box will likely grow weary of the cramped conditions. The next stage — creating safe permanent homes for all those people — will be complicated and expensive.