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Tears of frustration, gifts of hot food

By Zhang Zhihao | China Daily | Updated: 2017-06-26 07:03

Gou Shaolin, 43, said he missed his family, his construction projects and his kiwi garden back home in Dujiangyan, Sichuan province. But he had a bigger role to fill - being the rescue commander for Blue Sky Rescue, a nonprofit civilian volunteer disaster rescue team.

When a landslide hit Xinmo village at around 5:40 am on Saturday, Gou, along with 40 volunteers, were the first civilians to reach the site, arriving at noon. Shortly afterward, their rescue dogs and life detectors found two buried bodies.

"It is much more serious than I thought. The boulders are extremely heavy, the weather is cold and rainy, and time is running out fast. Heavy machinery is also having trouble operating on the steep slope," Gou said.

"Everybody is desperately trying to save lives, but often to no avail. I have cried at least five or six times in frustration since arriving here."

Since 2008, Gou has participated in many rescue missions, including the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake and the 2013 Ya'an earthquake. But landslides are some of the most difficult natural disasters to tackle, he said.

"The momentum of the rocks is deadly, and subsequent rain and mud will fill any open space in the rubble, leaving no room to move or breathe," he said. "The chance of survival in this situation is very slim."

But that didn't stop people from trying. Gou had help surveying the field, digging for survivors and passing out supplies. He had slept only four hours since arriving.

"Many of our volunteers have lost their loved ones to natural disasters," Gou said, referring to one of his teammates at the site who lost his daughter in the Wenchuan earthquake.

"We understand how worried and devastated people can be when disaster hits, so we are more motivated to help those in need," he added. "The disaster might hit us hard, but Chinese people are stronger and more united in tough times."

Zhang Guoying, 66, is a female Muslim living in Taiping village, about 30 kilometers north of Xinmo. She and three-dozen neighbors make steamed rice and buns, along with four other dishes, put the food into large metal containers and carry it to the disaster zone twice a day.

Zhang said the Eid al-Fitr celebration - a religious holiday for Muslims around the world that marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting - began on Sunday.

"We traditionally visit friends and relatives, put on new clothes, and exchange presents during the holiday," she said. "But helping people in need is a good way to honor the spirit of the holiday, and by sharing our goodwill, we pray for more miracles and that more people will be saved."

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