New Delhi, May 24 : Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has informally indicated that his government is seriously considering a proposal to convert Sichuan Province's earthquake-ravaged largest town in Beichuan County into a memorial in honour of those who died in the May 12 calamity.
Xinhua and The China Daily quoted sources as saying that the town's towers of rubble will now be built as a memorial park for future generations to witness and pay homage.
Tucked in a steep river valley atop the unstable Longmen Fault, the onetime Beichuan town of 20,000 is in too vulnerable a location to rebuild, officials said.
The State Council, which Premier Wen heads, will make a final decision on whether to turn Beichuan into a memorial by the end of the month, Zhang Jie, a press spokesman for the Mianyang municipality, which oversees the town, was quoted, as saying.
He added that survivors of the quake in Beichuan have been relocated to the nearby cities of Mianyang and Anxian and will not be permitted to return to their former home.
Soldiers have been ordered to bar entry to the ruined city due to fears of infection and concern that a river blocked by landslides above the town, forming two lakes, may suddenly burst, letting a deluge down the valley.
Of Beichuan Town's former inhabitants, about 8,600 are known to have died and another 5,894 remain missing. The rest appear to have survived.
China won't be the first country to seal off a town devastated by natural disaster. In 1985, a volcanic eruption melted an icecap on an Andean peak, triggering a mudslide that buried the town of Armero in Colombia, killing 23,000 people. The site of the buried town was later declared "holy ground" and turned into a commemorative park.
A huge memorial at Beichuan might be a fitting tribute to a calamity that is likely to be seen by historians as a watershed moment for China. Tens of thousands of ordinary Chinese volunteers have flocked to the quake zone in Sichuan Province to offer varied services.