Haunting Photographs of Nature Reclaiming Abandoned Towns Ten Years After 2008 Sichuan Earthquake

Nature reclaims abandoned buildings in Beichuan that were destroyed by the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.Johannes Eisele/AFP
Thick foliage grows in and around buildings in Beichuan that were destroyed by the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.Johannes Eisele/AFP

A decade after a massive earthquake rocked China's southwestern province of Sichuan, killing almost 70,000 people, haunting photographs show how nature is reclaiming abandoned and shattered homes and schools.

Many of the houses that collapsed during the 7.9 magnitude quake on May 12, 2008 remain buried under the earth and are covered by overgrown bushes and weeds.

A former school in the city of Beichuan, near the quake's epicenter, has been preserved as an open air memorial to the dead. More than 1,000 people were killed at Beichuan High School when it collapsed in the massive quake.

Damaged classrooms remain a mess, with books on the dusty desks turning black with rot. In some houses wedding photos can be seen hanging on the walls. Images of Chairman Mao Zedong lie abandoned in the rubble. 

The local government is supporting villagers to develop leisure and tourism industries after the quake, and many quake survivors have turned their newly-built houses into inns. Signs in Chinese, English, Japanese, Korean and French urge visitors to be careful where they tread to let the dead rest in peace.

Sichuan remains seismically active. Last August, a 7.0-magnitude quake in a mountainous part of Sichuan popular with tourists killed 20 and injured around 500.

– Reuters contributed to this report.

Police cars are seen abandoned in Beichuan, ten years after the devastating 2008 Sichuan earthquake.Johannes Eisele/AFP
Desks stand in the classroom of Beichuan Vocational Education Centre destroyed in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.Jason Lee/Reuters
An abandoned book lies on a desk in the classroom of Beichuan Vocational Education Centre which was destroyed in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.Jason Lee/Reuters
Old trainers are seen in a devastated home in a village in Sichuan province ten years after the earthquake.Wang He/Getty Images
Old cars are trapped under destroyed buildings in Beichuan ten years after the earthquake. Johannes Eisele/AFP
Shattered buildings are surrounded by thick forest in Beichuan, ten years after the earthquake. Johannes Eisele/AFP
A basketball backboard is seen at the site of Beichuan Middle School which was buried by boulders in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.Jason Lee/Reuters
Houses destroyed by the 2008 Sichuan earthquake in Beichuan.Johannes Eisele/AFP
A card featuring images of the late Chairman Mao Zedong and Tiananmen Gate is seen next to a shrine in the former home of surviving villager Wang Guocheng.Jason Lee/Reuters
Posters of former leaders including the late Chairman Mao Zedong are seen in a destroyed house in the village of Luobozhai ten years after the quake.Johannes Eisele/AFP
An old calendar featuring Chairman Mao lies in the rubble of a devastated home in the village of Luobozhai ten years after the earthquake.Wang He/Getty Images
Former resident of the village of Luobozhai, Wang Guocheng, returns to his devastated home ten years after the earthquake.Wang He/Getty Images