Known as the hometown of the panda, Baoxing receives more than 1 million tourists a year. While most hotels in North Muping Street — the busiest commercial area in the county — remained closed, some restaurants, supermarkets and clothing shops have resumed business.
Peng Huaixia runs a sportswear store on the street. She arrived at 8 am on Friday, half an hour earlier than usual, as she couldn't sleep well in a tent. Her shop has been confirmed as safe by the authorities, although she is worried about aftershocks.
"The rent is more than 100 yuan ($16) a day and I can't afford to lose money with two kids to raise," said Peng, who has a bruised left cheek after falling during last Saturday's quake. To her relief, the business has not been affected by the earthquake, "maybe because many people can't wash clothes and had to shop for some", she said. Peng, 37, originally from neighboring Tianquan county, and her husband spent all their savings — 120,000 yuan — on a 50 square meter apartment in Baoxing a few years ago. "The government said it is uncertain about whether it is still habitable now. But I'm afraid there are cracks and holes in the wall," she said. Opposite the sportswear store stands a barbershop named after the owner, Wang Litao. The 44-year-old, who is still living in a tent at Baoxing Stadium, and her apprentice have been kept busy since the shop reopened on Friday morning. "My friends urged me to restart the business as soon as possible because it's not convenient to wash hair when living in tents, and people need the service desperately," Wang said while washing the hair of a woman also in her 40s.
The customer, who identified herself as a volunteer who helped cook for the soldiers engaged in rescue work, along with Wang, said: "It feels great to have my hair washed finally." Wang said the earthquake has also given her a chance to "rediscover" her husband. "Truth be told, we used to own a restaurant and he lost it by gambling. I had been considering a divorce," Wang said. "But he has worked so hard as a volunteer since the earthquake and everyone likes his dishes. In my eyes, he became great overnight." By the riverside, a newsstand had already opened. The owner, Jiang Zhongquan, said only newspapers from the previous day are available. "But this is not because of the earthquake — it is the norm in our mountainous area," said Jiang, 72.
Next to the newsstand there is a transparent plastic tent. "The colorful ones have sold out and this is the best we can get," said Xiao Quanying, holding her 6-month-old daughter Peng Ziling. A Baoxing native, Xiao lives in Chengdu with her husband, and had returned home to visit her parents when the quake struck. "I feel lucky that my daughter is physically very fit, or she might have become sick here," said Xiao, 24.
Her husband, who is in Chengdu, wants them to return but Xiao decided to stay as she was worried about landslides on the way out of Baoxing. She said she will leave as soon as the road is declared safe. "At this moment, I should stay with my parents. And I have to take care of my daughter. I have to make the choice." The death toll had risen to 196 with 11,470 wounded by noon on Thursday, the rescue headquarters said. About 22,000 injured or sick people have been treated and the local government has released 200,000 handbooks on disease prevention.
On Thursday, the Sichuan government declared that the province will mourn the victims for three minutes on Saturday. All entertainment activities will be suspended. The three-minute silence will start at 8:02 am — when the quake struck — to the sound of sirens, and horns on cars, trains and ships, the provincial government said in a statement. Some organizations and companies have expressed their condolences in various ways. Many online stores changed the color of their websites to black and white, while others lit digital candles on their websites. Some express courier companies sent privately donated clothes and drugs to quake-hit areas for free. The French embassy held a mourning ceremony on Thursday night. About 200 people prayed for the victims.