The thread of life amid debris of destruction
By Fu Jing
Updated: 2008-05-21 07:14
Children from Beichuan county, one of the worst-hit areas in Sichuan province, play a game in Jiuzhou Stadium in Mianyang city yesterday. A lot of people who lost their homes in the quake have taken shelter in the stadium. [China Daily]
BEICHUAN, Sichuan: Yang Debiao refuses to eat. “How can I when I have lost 60 family members and relatives in the quake?” says the 38-year-old. “How can I live without my wife? What will I tell my daughter when she asks where her mother is?”
Yang has just returned from Shanxi province where he worked in a mine.
His wife died when the cyber caf she used to work in collapsed. His nine-year-old daughter escaped miraculously, though hundreds of her schoolmates died when their school building collapsed.
Yang and Deng Xingyou, a retiree, are sitting on the rubble of building with their surviving relatives. Two bundles of clothes and quilts and a bottle of edible oil lie near them. Both of them returned to Beichuan county from a shelter in Mianyang city on Monday in the hope of finding their loved ones.
Though many people have been found alive under the debris of buildings after five, six or even seven days, the chance of finding one now is too remote.
Guardian’s Tania Branigan tells the incredible story of the pupils of Liu Han Hope Elementary school (刘汉希望小学) of Beichuan (北川) County, who survived the earthquake thanks to the school building which stood firm, then when realised being cut off and threatened by aftershocks and rockslide, trekked through the mountains to reach the safety, escorted by their teachers and local police.
The Liu Han Hope Elementary school in Beichuan county stands in the heart of the disaster zone yet, while hundreds died across Sichuan province in classrooms that crumbled to dust, every one of its 483 pupils survived last week’s quake.
China yesterday raised its toll of the dead and missing to 70,000, and warned of a “desperate need” for tents to shelter millions of homeless survivors. But the story of the children’s escape is a rare piece of good news. While other schools disintegrated, theirs stood firm. Even the three-storey glass wall remained intact. When the slopes around them began to threaten their safety, staff marched pupils as young as five out of their remote home on an all-day, all-night trek.
“It was nothing outstanding - just a teacher’s responsibility,” Xiao Xiaochuan said. “It was not done by one teacher but by the whole faculty and students, with help from police and officials.”
Translated from Chinese by Candice Zhou
The 12 years old student Li Yue was from Beichuan. She was buried in the ruins. Her left leg was stuck between huge concrete sheets. The rescuers didn’t have the equipment to remove the heavy concrete. Li Yue begged the man accompanied her, ”I’d rather kill myself if I lost my leg.”
The dilemma facing the rescue team was there were four other students buried underneath Li Yue who were still alive. If they couldn’t take Li Yue out quickly, the four students’ can’t be rescued and their lives were in danger. There were several aftershocks everyday, and might cause more casualties. At last, Li Yue’s mom agreed to doctor’s advice. Her daughter’s left leg was to be amputated on site.
After 69 hours under the ruins, Li Yue was rescued. When she awaked, she found she had already lost her left leg. However, she didn’t cry.
I have seen many stories about the earthquake, and this is the first one about the child who didn’t cry. Wish small Li Yue be strong to go on her way. And hope more people will come to help her and support her.
In the last a couple days, many media organisations have arrived Beichuan (北川), one of the mountainous counties devastated by the earthquake. Reading and watching news from UK, if appears there are several camera crews from BBC, Sky and some press in Beichuan.
Feedbacks from our local correspondents and volunteers, however, indicate that the media are largely concentrated in the large town centres. While there are many rescue and relief work going on in the most populated area, people in the surrounding small towns and villages also need help. There are some rescue and relief workers there, but because of the lack of access or information, we seldom heard their stories and what they need.
China has mobilised rescue and medical workers from all over the country. Some drove their trucks or ambulances for thousands of miles to reach the disaster area. There are also numbers of volunteer groups, often self-organised through the internet, working on small and specific projects. We hope we can report back to you in the coming days.
18 May 2008