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Disaster: Self help and survival

By Hu Yongqi in Ya'an, Sichuan, and He Na and Jiang Xueqing in Beijing | China Daily | Updated: 2013-04-25 07:30

A tobacco pouch may have saved the lives of villagers, report Hu Yongqi in Ya'an, Sichuan, and He Na and Jiang Xueqing in Beijing.

Fujiaying village in Longmen township, just 5 km from Lushan county, the epicenter of Saturday's Ya'an earthquake, has been hailed as a sort of miracle. Not one of the 800 villagers was injured when the earthquake struck, despite massive damage to property in the area.

But rather than being overwhelmed by the destruction caused by the quake and waiting passively for help to arrive, the villagers began their own search and rescue mission hours before aid came from the outside world.

Disaster: Self help and survival

A volunteer makes a note about aid distribution in Lushan county, Sichuan province, on Tuesday. Photo by Feng Yongbin / China Daily

"China is a country with a long history of natural disasters, right through from ancient times to now," said Wang Dawu, the top political adviser of Lushan county.

"The example set by Fujiaying village can be used to benefit other regions and disaster relief work in the future," Wang said.

Disaster: Self help and survival 

"More than 80 percent of those affected (in the county) have a strong awareness of the value of self-help. They tried their best to help each other survive, which gained them more time as they waited for supplies and help to arrive from outside," he said.

Li Xianhe is considered a savior in Fujiaying; the 68 year old and his family were the first to raise the alarm, allowing their fellow villagers to evacuate their crumbling houses and escape to safety.

But when the residents come to express their gratitude, Li simply smiles modestly and says they should be thanking his tobacco pouch, not him.

Li carries the pouch everywhere he goes, even securing it to his wrist by a piece of string when he lies down to sleep.

Just before the quake struck on Saturday, Li was woken by the violent rocking of the tobacco pouch hanging from his arm.

Disaster: Self help and survival 

"It's really weird, you know? I experienced the Wenchuan earthquake in 2008 and my instincts told me just one thing - earthquake. I yelled out 'earthquake, earthquake' and rushed my family out of the house immediately," he said.

Rather than trying to re-enter their house and collect valuables, Li and his family rushed along the village road and shouted to their neighbors, warning them of the impending disaster.

"Run! Quickly! Leave everything behind and run!" yelled Li in the hope his voice would alert those still indoors. As his cries rang out, many villagers ran from their homes and joined him in the road.

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