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Typhoon: Torrent of tragedy
By Shao Xiaoyi (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-08-20 01:55

Qiu Xinlei smiled soundly as he slept, lying in a hospital bed in the coastal city of Taizhou.

But the 6-month-old boy is too young to know he he'll never enjoy his parents' care.

His mother and father died in Typhoon Rananim, which hit the province on August 12.

Collapsed dyke walls lie in the water at Dajing Town, Leqing of Zhejiang, which was severely hit by the Typhoon Ramanim. [newsphoto]

The night when the tempest was predicted to hit,the family of four was staying at home to avoid the danger outside.

The strong winds howled,the windows whistling as the house began to shake.

Suddenly, its roof collapsed, and the infant's father, Qiu Junting, rushed to protect his wife and son, injuring himself before falling into a pool of his own blood.

Then the structure caved in, and Xin Lei's mother tried her best to protect her little son in her arms.

Qiu Jujie, 17, the baby's elder brother, had grabbed a bed cover and wrapped it around himself before the structure gave way.

Four hours later, the family was found still under debris by rescuers.

Qiu Junting was dead. The children's mother died as she was rushed to the hospital, the teenager sustained head injuries. Only little Qiu Xinlei was found intact, with just minor injuries.

"My parents paid with their lives to save my brother,'' said Qiu Jujie,tears welling again in his eyes, recalling the horrific scene.

All medical charges of two boys will be exempted, said local hospital authorities.

"I am worried about the future of two young boys,'' said the baby's aunt, adding that relatives' financial situations can hardly allow them to bring up the two.

Like the children,, thousands of people were left homeless by Typhoon Rananim, which killed 164 with 24 missing and affected 12.99 million people in the province.

The worst-hit areas appeared to be Taizhou and Wenzhou, southern coastal cities in East China's Zhejiang Province.

"It was like you were standing in the Gobi Desert,'' said Feng Zhili, Wenzhou's vice-mayor, as he rushed to the devastation in Leqing, where resulting mudslides caused 29 deaths. Some 18 people are still missing.

Two days after the typhoon hit the city, a sudden mudslide fell down a remote mountainous area in the northern part of Leqing.

Local villages said that they saw falling rock that was as big as a house.

"Afterwards, you couldn't find any sign of life,'' Feng said.

A woman weeps inside her dilapidated house after the typhoon swept the Longxi Village in Leqing last Thursday. [newsphoto]

The search for missing people was slow as the large coverage of the falling rock and mud made the search difficult, Feng added.

More than 200 soldiers were sent to help local villagers find their missing relatives.

The troops had to use steel bars, ropes and their bare hands to dig out buried people, since the avalanche had made it difficult to access the areas.

Teams of communication workers and technicians were trying to restore local power and communications, as well as the area's water supply -- all cut off since the disaster struck.

Life necessities including 50 tons of rice, 500 kilogrammes of pork, 500 kilogrammes of salt, vegetables and water were delivered to local villagers, according to Feng.

Officials said experts were proceeding to check dangerous mountains, making sure no tragedy would happen again.

In order to allow 900 students in Leqing return to school as normal by September, local officials were busy planning to construct new buildings, said a local villager and Party secretary Liu Xiangzhang.

According to officials, 8,630 houses were damaged in Wenzhou alone in the typhoon.

A villager was cited as saying that he hopes to relocate to a safer place where homes could withstand typhoons and no sudden landslides can occur.

The government has planned to build new homes with an area of 250,000 square metres for homeless people, according to the report.

About 41,222 enterprises stopped production in Taizhou as the city was plunged into darkness when the typhoon swept through.

"We have tried to resume production as quickly as possible to make up for the losses,'' said Lin Xueqing, general manager of an agricultural company in Taizhou.

Lin's company suffered a loss of over 5 million yuan (US$600,000) in the typhoon.

After generators became drenched in water, the company could only resume power two days after the typhoon left the area.

The staff stayed busy cleaning debris, garbage and repairing damaged shelves at their agricultural bases.

Local rural credit cooperatives provided a loan of 200,000 yuan (US$24,000) to help Lin's company go back to normal production, Lin said.

Also, Lin received more than 100,000 yuan (US$12,000) of subsidies from local government.

"Although the typhoon caused great damage, we have the confidence to earn back the losses,'' said Lin.

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