I spent 5 days in Yushu prefecture recently. It was the third time I had been to Yushu since the April earthquake. When I arrived in Jyekundo, the capital of Yushu prefecture, it was snowing. The temperature was slightly below freezing with heavy wind. With over 100,000 homeless people living in tents, the long, cold winter had arrived. Conditions in Yushu will only worsen as the winter goes on. I found one of several tent hotels located in town and settled in for the night.
Since shortly after the earthquake, the entire town of Jyekundo has slowly been bulldozed. There are just a handfull of buildings remaining in the downtown and west end parts of town. Quite a few buildings remain standing on the east end of town as this part was not as hard hit as the others. Most of the government and school buildings have been moved into temporary buildings, though the majority of people remain living in tents. Everything from shops and pharmacies to appliance stores and restaurants are in tents. I even saw tent shops selling large screen TV's.
South of Jyekundo, the small town around Trangu Monastery has been mostly rebuilt. Several hundred people are now living in new Tibetan style homes. This area was hit especially hard. The entire monastery of Trangu was destroyed with reports that few of the monks survived. Another small village west of Jyekundo is nearly finished being rebuilt. Most of the these survivors are nomads who have been recently resettled to the area. The houses in this area, pictured below, are also built in a Tibetan design.
I have heard that Jyekundo will begin to be rebuilt starting in the early spring of next year. I have seen the new city plans and when construction is finished in roughly 2 1/2 years, the town should be quite nice and modern. Until then, the areas throughout Yushu county should probably be avoided. It is a huge construction site and not really a tourism destination. The southern counties of Yushu prefecture, Nangchen and Dzado, were unaffected by the earthquake and can still be visited by tourists. These two counties are well off the beaten path, but have amazing landscape and are both over 98% Tibetan..
Though it still looks like a disaster zone, progress in happening in Yushu. I have high hopes that the town will be rebuilt in a beautiful Tibetan design to go with the amazing beauty of the surrounding landscape. It will be a cold winter however for the tens of thousands of people living in tents.
If you have any questions about Yushu or any other region of the Tibetan Plateau, send me an email at [email protected]