I have been on phone with several volunteers in Deyang (德阳). I was told Deyang is the second most damaged area during the earthquake. Several villages and towns have been completely destroyed by the quake and following landslides. By the way, Deyang, which has the population of about 4 millions, is a “prefecture-level city”, under which are three “county-level cities”, one “county-level district”, and two counties. Mianzhu (绵竹), which has appeared in British media reporting quite a few times, is one of the “county-level city” of Deyang that has suffered severe damage.
I was told that the authority’s focus is still on rescue and safety. The rebuilding process hasn’t really started yet, although there are plans of building temporary homes quickly which will only last several years.
More help is now needed in hospital and medical and health care. Sichuan is famous for its high humidity and the summer is coming. Things like tent, mosquito cream, and personal hygiene products are in shortage.
At the moment, the areas need most help are Mianzhu and Shifang (什邡). Students and teachers are the most affected group of people. About 200 students of all ages who have lost their parents or whose parents are unable to take care of them, are still living in the tent inside Mianzhu City Stadium. Many children and adults will need counseling. Local Educational Bureau has set up a team for this purpose, but the task ahead is overwhelming.
CEO, Mother Bridge of Love
22 May 2008
By Fu Jing
Updated: 2008-05-19 07:29
Working close to the epicenter of last Monday’s Wenchuan earthquake for nearly a week, I, a Sichuan native, cannot help mulling over how nature has challenged us to overcome the toughest circumstances.
What was the great disaster really like? The locals have their own ways to describe the moment when the quake struck.
Peng Shuihe, 38-year-old miner, started to stride through the 1,000-meter-long tunnel in the high-altitude mountains of Shifang shortly after the devastating earthquake. Describing his ordeal, he said: “The landslides and falling stones lasted for a day and night in the valleys and the noises they made were like bursting fireworks during Spring Festival.”
Luckily, the mud did not close the entrance of the tunnel. Peng survived and stayed with mounting fears at the foot of the mountains for two days before the rescuers reached him and his fellow-workers.
Wei Yin, aged 14, said her classroom in a three-storied building at Hongbei town of Shifang “fell in a grey smoke” within seconds, burying the majority of her schoolmates.
On the plains, experienced driver Yu Dengyun put the quake like this: “The ground became like chopping water in the sea and I was scared that the water might swallow my car.”
When the earthquake took place at 2:28 pm last Monday, I was in a taxi in Beijing and did not feel it. On the second day I was sent to my home province to cover the disaster. Driving and walking along the death zones and bumpy roads, I found that the bridges had broken down, railways twisted and towns and villages had turned to rubble.
The scenes, which filled me with tears of sorrow, engraved the details in my mind.
Graduating from a young reporter to a career journalist, I have from time to time been covering disasters such as floods, environmental pollution in coalmines and mine blasts. In the winter of 2005, I rushed to cover a coalmine blast, which claimed the lives of up to 200 miners in the tunnels in Heilongjiang province, Northeast China. Watching rescuers digging out the dead and their families reduced to desperation and misery, I was praying: there should be no more such stories, though I knew that disaster scenes are battlefields for journalists.
But I have long been wrong. Both in China and abroad, disasters come one after another. And here in my home Sichuan, the loss is immense. The death toll in a single building, workshop, community or village can surpass the number of the dead and injured I witnessed in the coal mine blast in Northeast China.
Miracles of life come one after another. I felt a little relieved on Saturday as I met two survivors along the valleys in mountainous regions of Shifang who had been buried in the ruins for five days.
But Saturday was also a sad day for me. Three of our China Daily reporters braved the danger of landsides to drive across a 100-meter-long bridge to the isolated Jinhua town of Mianzhu. We found that rescuers with life detectors reached the one-kilometer-long town five days after the deadly earthquake.
The rescuers told me in the late afternoon that there were no signs of life in the five sites mentioned by locals, although in the morning, a man cried out in a weak voice from the black debris, saying “I can hold on”.
The town is in the high mountains and linked by twisted railway and road bridges, which might put rescuers in danger if they happened to be caught by strong aftershocks. And several local officials in the town died in the earthquake and so the organization of disaster relief was in disorder.
The 51-year-old He Zhangju of the town guided me to a big hole in the field just 50 meters away from his ruined home. The hole was caused by a stone falling from the 2,000 meter-high mountains. The stone was nowhere to be seen when I arrived there.
“Before the quake and its aftermaths such as landslides, we are powerless,” she said. But she further complained: “But we can have the rescue efforts started earlier.”
I fully understood her.
But the quake was extremely strong and devastating and covered massive lands in Sichuan and even neighboring provinces. It takes time to mobilize resources. For those who have not been at the scenes, especially in the high maintain ranges, it is not easy to understand how tough the rescue efforts are.
Also, there were continuous aftershocks during the post-quake days.
At about two in the early morning of Sunday, when I was just about to go to bed at the home of my parents-in-law in Deyang, the strongest ever aftershock forced me to rush out in the open. Half an hour later, I calmed down and picked up courage to return to the building.
With the wind blowing through the windows, I could not fall asleep. Was the sound the wind made, I feared, from an aftershock?
(China Daily 05/19/2008 page9)