It was a bittersweet return for those residents whose family members and friends were killed by toxic fumes For the villagers of Zhengba township, yesterday was a homecoming overshadowed by numbness and a sense of disbelief. Thousands of farmers of this densely populated, poor mountain region got to spend their first full day at home. They were quickly evacuated last Tuesday when a natural gas well exploded around 6km away at nearby Xiaoyang village, releasing a toxic cloud that killed at least 234 people and injured more than 10,000. After declaring the region safe, officials on Sunday night began busing villagers who lived outside the 5km danger zone back to their homes. Wang Shenbi, the owner of a clothing store in Zhengba's Zhengxin village, said she was both glad and sad to be back. 'It's good to be home. I was worried about my shop. Also, staying at my brother's house was very troublesome to his family,' said the 52-year-old grandmother. Unlike the majority of her fellow residents who spent three nights at government shelters, Ms Wang stayed at her brother's home in Kai county. She said her homecoming was bitter-sweet because she grew up in Xiaoyang village, which was the closest community to the well releasing toxic gas. 'That is where I grew up. Many of my friends and their family members have been either killed or injured by the blast,' Ms Wang said. She said one of her brothers who still lived in the village suffered poison inhalation from the explosion. He was receiving treatment at the Kai County People's Hospital. 'As soon as the government says it is OK, I'm going to visit Xiaoyang and help the people out as much as I can,' Ms Wang said. For farmer Ni Huamian, from nearby Taixin village, the return was less emotional. 'Everything feels just like it was before,' Mr Ni said. He said he already went home to check on his seven pigs, which were still alive. However, he did have some worries. 'I think all my animals and crops are contaminated.' Like many of his fellow residents, Mr Ni said he was going to follow government recommendations and only eat dry food, like rice and noodles, until he knows it is safe to eat meat and vegetables. He said he had come up with his own way to check food safety. 'I'm going to feed the crops first to the pigs. If the pigs don't die, then it should be OK to eat them.' Meanwhile, Zhengxin villager Li Yunjun was more concerned about making a living. He is one of the 200 villagers in the region who work in the nearby coal mine. 'The economic losses for me are huge because of the accident. The government has closed down the mine and I can't go to work,' said the 36-year-old father. He returned home with his wife and two children on Sunday evening. Before the accident, Mr Li said he earned around 30 yuan a day by working outside the mine and 60 yuan a day when he went down the shaft to dig. But with the deadly gas accident, Mr Li said he was scared to work in the mine even if it opens again. 'I need to make money but I'm not that crazy you know.' The disaster was not bad news for some people. Five days before the blast, Li Guanjun had returned home to Taixin village after spending three years as a labourer in Guangzhou. He came back to his village to marry his sweetheart in January. He said the blast may have been a blessing in disguise. 'If the government says we can't eat any of our meat or vegetables, then I can save money and cancel the wedding banquet.'