Snapshots of courage amidst disaster in China

May 16th, 2008 - 6:28 pm ICT by admin  

Yingxiu Township (China), May 16 (Xinhua) With China still reeling under the deadly earthquake that is feared to have killed more than 50,000 people, severity of the catastrophe is slowly surfacing in Wenchuan - the epicentre of the quake. Stories are coming to light about heroism and tragedy. Zhang Miya, a teacher at the Yingxiu township primary school, which completely collapsed in the quake, appeared as a hero for the locals as he chose to save lives of two of his students at the cost of his own.

When rescuers found the body of Zhang Miya, they were astonished at his gesture.

The 29-year-old man knelt on debris, extending both arms to hug two of his students, like an eagle spreading its wings. On his back was some of the fallen wreckage of the building and under his arms, the children were alive.

The teacher was clutching his students so tightly, rescuers had to saw his arms off to pull out the children.

“He protected students like an eagle,” said a rescue official.

“Zhang saved his students at the price of his own life,” said Tan Guoqiang, the 48-year-old headmaster of the school.

Zhang was a mathematics teacher who came to the school two years ago. His colleague, English teacher Mao Fangqin, said he was versatile and a good singer.

“His only relatives in Yingxiu were his wife Deng Xia, who was also a teacher in our school, and his 3-year-old son,” Mao said.

Deng also died in the school building collapse, and the son’s body has been found in a local kindergarten.

“May they reunite in heaven and live happily ever after,” Mao said.

The story of Wang Song, a class-nine student from the Xuankou Middle School in Yingxiu, is also quite painful. He with his classmates spent more than 40 hours on a hill before they were evacuated by army helicopters Wednesday.

“We were having history class on the third floor when the quake hit,” recalled Wang. “We rushed out, hearing the school building collapse behind us.”

After a trek of half an hour, the 1,200 students and teachers from 31 classes reached the top of a hill.

“We collected some wooden boards from toppled houses to make beds and borrowed boilers and rice from local farmers. Then we cooked in the wild and waited for rescue,” Wang said.

“It was raining the other day and we squeezed under a shelter we made ourselves. Many people were soaked by the rain and were coughing, and the injuries of wounded had worsened,” he added.

During the seemingly hopeless wait, teachers kept encouraging students with the promise that “rescue teams are coming soon.”

On Wednesday morning, they saw the first helicopter. “Some people cheered, some cried, and I let out a sigh,” Wang said.

There were reports that a number of school buildings collapsed in the deadly quake, causing deaths of hundreds of students and teachers.

China’s ministry of housing and urban-rural development Friday ordered the local authorities to investigate the reasons why school buildings collapsed in Monday’s earthquake.

“If quality problems exist in the school buildings, we will deal with the people responsible for this and give the public a satisfying answer,” said Han Jin, head of the development and plan department of the education ministry said.

On Thursday China said that more than 50,000 people were feared dead in the killer earthquake as the hope for rescuing more survivors from the rubble was becoming bleak.

More than 130,000 Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers and armed police, 1,235 medical teams, local officials and volunteers were racing the clock for rescue and relief operations in the quake-hit areas.

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