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Tale of desperation turns to one of hope

Updated: 2013-05-03 01:55
By An Baijie (China Daily)

When I was on my way to Sichuan province's earthquake-devastated region last month, I imagined the possible scene — collapsed houses everywhere, rushing trucks loaded with rescue machinery and food, and broken-hearted people crying bitterly.

The magnitude-7 quake that rocked Ya'an city in the southwestern province on April 20 had left at least 196 people dead and 21 others missing.

Tale of desperation turns to one of hope

When I arrived at Longmen township, the epicenter, on the morning of April 21, I found many collapsed wooden houses, smashed glass scattered on the ground, and homeless people asking for food and water from passing vehicles.

Some residents had all of their possessions buried in the ruins. None of them dared to sleep in their homes any more for fear of aftershocks.

For many residents, the quake has claimed everything, including the lives of their loved ones.

Lots of villagers held up message boards asking for water, food and tents.

They stood along the roadside and waved their boards at me, as I passed in an army truck loaded with food and vegetables.

However, no matter how difficult their lives had become, I rarely detected much grief or despair during my seven-day trip.

On the streets of Lushan county's downtown area, 20 km from the epicenter, people were waiting patiently in line to get relief materials, including food and water, several days after the quake.

There was no unrest or disorder as they waited.

Many talked and even laughed — quite amazing, given their homes had been completely destroyed several days before.

"Aren't you sad about your house being destroyed?" I asked one woman, who had bought her apartment just three years ago, with all of her family's savings, as well as a loan of 340,000 yuan ($55,200).

"Would sadness change the current situation?" she asked me. "If sadness is useless, why would I be sad?"

The attitude was similar in many people I talked to.

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