BEIJING – The government of China’s southwestern Sichuan province plans to turn areas devastated by the May 12 earthquake into a tourist attractrion.

The province, known for its pandas and fiery cuisine, has been struggling to rebuild in the aftermath of a disaster that killed about 70,000 people and rendered 10 million homeless.

Some have put the total cost of reconstruction at almost $80 billion.

An “experimental tourist zone” would track a fault line that runs through Wenchuan county in the province’s far west and encompass ruins, a memorial in Yingxiu, a museum in Beichuan and a lake created during the tremors at Tangjiashan, the official Xinhua news agency said yesterday.

The “Wenchuan quake ruins tourist route will demonstrate the protection of such ruins and the quake survivors’ spirit of perseverance,” Xinhua quoted provincial tourism chief Zhang Gu as saying.

The quake cost Sichuan’s tourism industry more than $7.7 billion, Xinhua said.

Zhang announced Tuesday that Sichuan would invest about $12.5 billion to restore its tourism industry. The funds – including 30 per cent from central coffers – would be used to rebuild roads, hotels, restaurants and scenic spots.

Zhang hoped his planned tourist zone, which needs approval, would extend into Gansu and Shaanxi provinces, helping highlight “biological and cultural diversity.”