Cascading waves of earth add to quake nightmare

Stricken villagers in Qinghai battle way through deep mud and debris

By Wang Xiaoyu in Minhe County, Qinghai and Ma Jingna in Jishishan County, Gans | China Daily | Updated: 2023-12-22 07:14
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Rescuers work in Jintian village, Haidong, Qinghai province, where layers of earth tumbled from a slope and submerged residents and houses after Monday's earthquake. LI ZHANYI/XINHUA/LI KAOJUN/FOR CHINA DAILY

In addition to the trauma caused by the quake, the village was hit by waves of earth churning like water that crushed houses in a phenomenon known as liquefaction or sand boil.

Memories of the horrifying moment when layers of earth tumbled down from a nearby slope differ between the villagers, but they were all shocked and panicked by the incident.

"The mud, which appeared to be four to five meters deep, cascaded down and destroyed all the trees and buildings in its way," Kong said, pointing at a vast patch of land that had sunk at least three meters into the ground.

"Standing here again makes my hair stand on end," he added.

Kong was one of the first villagers to rush to houses that were submerged and buried under the mud, in an attempt to rescue those who were trapped.

"A child was trapped in the mud, so we grabbed his arm to pull him out, but we eventually failed. My memory of that night is something of a blur," he said.

Yang Delu, Party chief of Jintian, was asleep when the quake woke him. "I ran outside, where the thick yellow mud looked as though it was two to three meters deep. I had no idea where it came from, so I immediately called higher authorities to seek assistance," he said.

Ma Guangjiong, a 67-year-old resident living on the perimeter of the village, who was watering his crops in a field when the quake struck, has listened to accounts of collapsed houses being buried deep in the mud.

"The sky somehow turned red at that moment. I thought that a nuclear bomb had been set off on the night of the earthquake. We knew people who died during the quake, because we worked together on the farmland for years. It is such a tragedy," he said.

Some cracks appeared on the roof of Ma's house, but the main structure remains intact. He and his wife have spent two nights at a communal shelter.

"We also received a tent from the Red Cross that we can pitch in front of our house to accommodate my family and neighbors," he said.

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