Dujiangyan Revisited: A Ruined City, One Year Later

Had a drive through the city of Dujiangyan over the weekend. It's quite close to Chengdu, but while this provincial capital came through the quake pretty much unscathed, Dujiangyan was a very different story. It was closer to the epicenter and the destruction was severe.

When I was in Dujiangyan last year four days after the earthquake, I saw crowds of people waiting anxiously outside the traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital. Part of the hospital had collapsed, and excavators were clawing through the rubble, uncovering bodies.

Hospital workers outside the traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital in Dujiangyan, China, in 2008. Ph

Hospital workers outside the traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital in Dujiangyan one year ago, as the military stands guard. Melissa Block/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Melissa Block/NPR

Down the street from the hospital, this store window gave me a jolt for an instant before I realized these were just mannequins.

Mannequins in a storefront window after the 2008 earthquake. Photo: Melissa Block, NPR.

Soon after the 2008 earthquake, these mannequins in a storefront window made a startling tableau. Melissa Block/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Melissa Block/NPR

Back then, people by the thousands were living in makeshift tents on the street; if they were lucky, they were sleeping on whatever bits of furniture they were able to scavenge from their ruined homes. All the stores were closed.

Today, Dujiangyan is a study in contrasts. Some buildings are perfectly fine. Shops are bustling. Kids climb on playground equipment in crowded fast food restaurants. This store tempts shoppers with gold jewelry from Hong Kong.

Dujiangyan in 2009 includes bustling streets. Photo: Melissa Block, NPR.

Dujiangyan today: This upscale jewelry store tempts shoppers with a bright storefront. Melissa Block/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Melissa Block/NPR

But just around the corner, you'll see massive destruction that still takes your breath away.

One of countless destroyed apartment buildings still standing in Dujiangyan, China, in 2009. Photo:

One of countless destroyed apartment buildings still standing in Dujiangyan. Melissa Block/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Melissa Block/NPR

Wherever you turn, you'll find block after block of buildings that were ripped apart or collapsed from the force of the earthquake. It's brutally obvious that much of this city will have to be torn down.

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