China quake survivors narrate tales of grief and fear

April 15th, 2010 - 12:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Qinghai (China), April 15 (IANS) Survivors in a devastating earthquake in northwest China were in a state of shock Thursday, a day after the temblor killed nearly 600 people.
People were leaving for work or school Wednesday when the magnitude 7.1 quake struck Qinghai province.

The residents in Gyegu town, close to the epicentre in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yushu, recalled their fear and grief as they huddled inside the relief camps.

Tezin Drolma felt the floor was shaking when she was about to leave her home for work Wednesday morning. “My first instinct told me it was an earthquake.”

Tezin rushed to the bedroom to take her two-year-old son, who was sleeping, out of the house, as the things on the table started to rattle.

“I did not even put any clothes on him,” she told Xinhua.

She felt two tremors. The first around 5.40 a.m., and the second, which was stronger, around 7.40 a.m., she recalled. Her family of five fled the two-storey house.

“I don’t know what happened to the house as I have not returned yet,” she said. “Most of the houses collapsed. I saw bodies on the road.”

Another Gyegu resident, Lungme and her five other family members, were buried under the rubble of their home. “It was all so sudden. I had no time to react,” she said.

Neighbours dug out Lungme and four other family members, but her mother died.

“Eight people of one of my neighbour’s family were buried. They were found dead,” she said.

A student at the Yushu Vocational School said: “I know there were several students in the building. Several bodies were found in the ruins, but the casualties are not known yet.”

In one of the 40-odd tents on a playground in the town, 55-year-old Tsering Dorje was in a state of coma. His right arm was amputated after he was injured in the quake.

“My husband was buried in the ruins. He was on the ground floor when the quake happened,” his wife said in tears.

He was operated inside a tent. “We could not get him to a hospital. Most of the hospitals collapsed,” said Karma Sherab, the doctor who operated on Dorje.

“The only thing we can do is to clean the wounds or amputate,” Karma said.

A mother showed her 20-year-old daughter’s bloodied face to the doctor for help. He could only show her his empty medical bag. “We lack everything. We lack medical alcohol, needles and anaesthetic,” said Karma.

More than 80 percent of the houses in the quake-hit area collapsed.

There were only enough tents for about 3,500 survivors in the town, the worst affected in the quake, with a population of 100,000 people. The temperature here was 12 degrees Celsius during the day, which dropped to two degrees Celsius in the evening.

The only two hotels in the town were destroyed and over 100 people are believed to be still buried in the ruins. Some residents have fled the town after the quake.

“We have not eaten anything for 12 hours,” said Shi Huajie, a police officer involved in the rescue work. “There is nothing to eat. The residents also have nothing to eat. We just focused on rescuing.”

The first rescue team arrived at the scene at 2 p.m. with medicine, food and drinking water. Additional rescue workers, including soldiers and hospital staff, were dispatched to the quake-hit region, the Qinghai provincial government announced.

China Earthquake Administration, Red Cross Society of China and provincial governments in Gansu, Sichuan, Tibet, Beijing and Guangdong have also sent workers to Yushu to help in the relief efforts.

Tents, clothes, quilts, food, medicine, bulldozers, excavators and cranes are being rushed to the region from across the country. More than 50,000 tents had been loaded on trains in central China’s Henan province Wednesday evening and were expected to arrive in Gyegu after 30 hours.

Officials said the toll has risen to 589 Thursday as the search for survivors continued.

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