When firemen saw slabs fall over child still alive (With Images)

May 23rd, 2008 - 12:28 pm ICT by admin  

By Ren Ke
Mianzhu (China), May 23 (Xinhua) A team of firemen were digging out survivors from a collapsed teaching block at a school when they were ordered to withdraw as an aftershock jolted the debris. Some shouted that they had found other child survivors, and tried to rush back to the site, but suddenly it collapsed. “Please let me save one more! I can save another one, please!” A young fireman who saved a child minutes ago fell on his knees, crying out desperately while others tried to drag him away to safety.

But there was really nothing left but to cry, watching another big cement slab falling down from the debris.

It was a scene in Mianzhu county of southwest China’s Sichuan province, 80 km from Wenchuan county, the epicentre of an 8.0 magnitude earthquake that jolted most of China and even some neighbouring countries May 12.

In the 100,000-sq km disaster-hit area, the tragedies that separate the living and the dead are always on show.

Officials say well over 51,000 people have been killed.

Facing the most catastrophic disaster in China since the Tangshan earthquake that killed some 240,000 people in 1976, Chinese people around the country — firemen, soldiers, armed policemen, doctors and ordinary citizens — have been eager to contribute their share to the disaster relief work.

In Qushan Elementary School in the county seat of Beichuan, a group of 200 policemen from Tianjin, a municipality in north China, have been busy digging out survivors since May 13.

A fifth-grader, Zhang Li, was sitting in front of the door of the collapsed classroom shouting: “Help me, uncles!” Beside him lay the remains of his classmates. In another ruin, a boy crushed under floorboards stretched out his fingers — and kept groaning.

Beichuan County, about 160 km northeast of Wenchuan, was one of the worst hit, with a death toll of 8,400 plus. About 80 percent of the buildings collapsed in the old town area and nearly 60 percent were levelled to the ground in the new town.

Policemen saved more than 400 victims within 24 hours. However, as landslides had blocked the roads, heavy equipment could not be delivered to the area. The policemen had to rescue the victims with such simple tools as shovels and drills.

Two days after the quake came a group of firemen from the neighbouring Shaanxi province, with electric saws and clamps. Still, they often found themselves helpless to save the survivors deeply trapped in the rubble.

“If only the slightest hope exists, we will spare no effort; if only there is one survivor in the debris, we will never give up,” Chinese Premier Wen Jiaobao said over the debris of a collapsed school building where hundreds were buried. Wen arrived at the disaster-hit area within three hours after the quake.

The epicentre, Wenchuan County, is on the southwestern edge of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, under the jurisdiction of Sichuan’s Aba Tibetan-Qiang Autonomous Prefecture. The mountainous and remote nature of this region besides bad weather and landslides kept rescuers from reaching Wenchuan for 24 hours.

Communications broke down, and there was no electricity or drinking water. It became an isolated island.

In Xuankou Middle School of Wenchuan, student Wang Song had been waiting for two days after the tremor. He was desperate until he saw two helicopters hovering above his head, dropping biscuits, mineral water and ham.

“I saw hope at that moment,” said Wang Song, “Some fellow students hailed loudly, some others cried out. Everyone was excited.”

The Chinese air force has been mobilized to drop food, tents and other relief materials for the victims. At the same time, parachute troops landed at the epicentre region. It was the debut for the Chinese paratroops in disaster relief operations.

Numerous trains, trucks and planes are heading for Sichuan, where more than 100,000 soldiers and 70 plus generals of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army are carrying out search and rescue missions.

Rescuers removed the blocks on the roads to Wenchuan, enabling large equipment to enter the disaster-affected areas. Thirty-three hours after the quake, Wenchuan, as well as other badly hit towns, were no longer isolated. More and more injured survivors were quickly sent to temporary hospitals in the quake-hit region.

In other parts of China, the earthquake and the ensuing relief efforts have taken a grip on everyone’s heart. Wenchuan, Qingchuan and Beichuan, these once unknown places became familiar names overnight to the ordinary people. More newspapers were sold. On Beijing’s buses, passengers are watching the mobile TV broadcasting the latest news from Sichuan, and some of them burst into tears for the horrible loss of lives and property to the catastrophe.

People were gathering at every mobile blood donation vehicle in Beijing, Chongqing, Shanghai and other mega-cities. Beijing’s blood bank turned full within 46 hours. However, people were still waiting in queues in a bid to get the opportunity to donate their blood.

Lu Wei, the charge nurse of Gulou Hospital in Nanjing, east China’s Jiangsu Province, arrived in Mianyang City with her 105 colleagues one day after the quake.

“Surgical instruments are badly needed, because many severely wounded people need operations,” said Lu. Lack of food is another problem, she said, as they had only steamed bread, corn and potatoes for the present.

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