Survivors recount quake nightmares in SW China county

Updated: 2008-05-14 14:10

Beichuan - Crowds of soldiers and civilians are still searching for survivors on Wednesday in Beichuan, a mountainous county in the north of Sichuan Province that is comparable to Pompeii after the worst earthquake in recent decades on Monday killed up to 5,000 people and toppled 80 percent of its buildings.

The county, about 160 kilometers northwest of the epicenter Wenchuan, was reduced to rubbles in the quake.

Five cranes carefully removed the floor slabs at Beichuan Middle School on Wednesday morning, and rescuers carefully cleaned away the rubbles underneath to search for survivors.

At least 1,000 students were buried when a six-story school building collapsed in Monday's quake.

Occasional cries for help from the ruins could be heard, but as the time went by, the cries lowered to whispers and many buried children were feared dying.

About 2,000 students, parents and villagers have never left the campus since the collapse. Some anxiously waited for news and witnesses recounted what they saw and heard.

Teenage hero

Zhu Fumin, a senior high, was respected as a hero for his calmness, courage and wisdom that saved 33 lives.

The 15-year-old ordered everyone to "lie prone" when the quake jolted their classroom and everyone else panicked, said his classmate Dai Yingying.

Most of the teenagers followed him to hide under their desks. In the darkness some began to scream and cry. " Zhu told us to stay calm and not to get exhausted," said Dai. "He said 'be brave, young men; stop crying, girls'".

In a few minutes the students calmed down. Some used their cell phones as torchlights and found the ceiling had toppled. Several students who didn't move fast enough were stuck between the ceiling and the desks. Zhang Li, the girl who sat next to Dai, was underneath the slab and had passed out.

Dai reached out to pinch her philtrum, hoping to bring her back to life. "She woke up for a moment, but she couldn't breath and was soon unconscious again."

In about an hour, Fu heard noises outside the ramshackle wall, and found a little hole, where a ventilator had been removed. He shouted through the hole for help, and found some teachers and students, who had been in a gym class on the playground, were digging the wall.

Zhu and another boy joined them and with all their might, they tore up a gap on the wall through which 33 of all the 65 students escaped. Nine of the trapped students were confirmed dead, said Long Mingquan, a school teacher.

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