Quake victims pick up pieces
By Cao Desheng (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-11-29 06:36
Ruichang, Jiangxi Province: Li Jinxiu is still in a state of shock as she
surveys her courtyard in the aftermath of Saturday's earthquake. Furniture,
cooking utensils and quilts lay scattered about, all that could be salvaged from
the wreckage of her house.
That day should have been a joyous one for the 48-year-old widow from Datang
Village, in the eastern part of Ruichang. Her 25-year-old son was due to be
married that morning, but instead of family celebrations and a new future, her
world came crashing down around her.
"I'd been expecting the day for such a long time, but when it finally came it
was a disaster," Li said, sobbing.
"Because the recently decorated house for the newly-weds collapsed, they had
to go to my daughter-in-law's home on the wedding day."
One small consolation for the heart-broken woman was that none of her
immediate family members and friends were killed or injured. At 8:49 am when the
quake occurred, most of the guests had still not arrived. The few people that
were present were helping her with the cooking in the courtyard when the earth
began to move.
Li's village was one of the areas hardest-hit by the earthquake, the
epicentre of which was in the middle reaches of the Yangtze River in the
northern part of East China's Jiangxi Province.
Jiujiang County, a major part of the well-known Lushan Mountain, and
neighbouring city of Ruichang, both in Jiangxi, sustained the most damage.
The devastating quake, measuring 5.7 on the Richter scale, with the epicentre
15 kilometres below the surface, has killed at least 15 people and injured more
than 400 in the area.
Thousands of houses have collapsed and hundreds of thousands of brick houses
are cracked, according to the local government.
In and around Ruichang, more than 420,000 people have left their homes,
Makeshift hospitals have been established in Ruichang to treat the injured
Wang Jian, a doctor at the Ruichang Hospital of Chinese Medicine, said his
hospital received more than 100 injured people after the quake,
"The earthquake cracked many medical wards, so a lot of patients have been
moved from dangerous buildings to makeshift structures in the open square," Wang
Tents serve as wards and operating theatres, he said, "but we are making
every effort to help the patients."
For one of Wang's patients, extreme fright has given way to joy. Wu Yindi,
from Jiujiang County, gave birth to a baby boy in the makeshift hospital
yesterday morning and now both the mother and the baby are doing well.
"At the very beginning, I was not aware it was an earthquake," said Wu's
"When I found the house was shaking, I tried to run out, but my trembling
legs wouldn't move."
When the elderly woman finally moved outside, she found the bricks and roof
tiles flying everywhere, and her pregnant daughter-in-law lying on the ground.
Despite the damage all around them, the family rushed Wu to a nearby
makeshift hospital. "Thank goodness, both my daughter-in-law and my grandson are
in good condition."
The boy has been named "Gui Zhen" in honour of his unusual birthday: "Zhen"
in Chinese means "quake."
Across Ruichang and Jiujiang makeshift shelters and tents have been set up,
as the scared residents remain unwilling to go back to their homes, scared by
the sporadic aftershocks.
"Who knows when the next quake will occur?" said local resident Chen
Changjiang, who narrowly escaped death by crawling out of the window after the
roof of his house caved in.
"We cut down trees and have bought some plastic materials to build shelters,"
Chen said. "All of the people in my neighbourhood have stayed outdoors the past
However, seismologists and local government officials have repeatedly told
the public that those who live 20 kilometres outside the epicentre should have
no fear about returning to their homes.
Experts from the State Seismic Bureau suggest local people try not to be too
afraid of aftershocks, and return to their homes.
According to forecasts and regular seismic patterns, there is little chance
of a serious quake in the coming days, an earthquake expert told reporters.
Thanks to the organization of the Ministry of Civil Affairs, trucks carrying
food, drinks and tents from neighbouring provinces have reached the worse-hit
areas, but the aid is still far from enough.
"What we are in urgent need of are tents, as we have no shelter for our young
children and elderly parents," said Chen.
The drizzle in the air yesterday morning was a concern. "I'm not sure how to
keep us from the rain and the cold. The weather forecast says it might drizzle
in the coming days."
Primary and middle schools in Ruichang will have a three-day break, so as to
prevent possible aftershocks from causing casualties among students.
"If the quake had occurred during the week, perhaps the casualties would have
been higher as the students would have been in class," said Cai Jian, a
geography teacher at Ruichang No 2 Middle School.
In fact, in Yangxin County, 70 kilometres north of the epicentre in the
neighbouring Hubei Province, 47 students were reportedly injured during a
stampeed when the earthquake occurred.
To popularize the knowledge of earthquakes and disaster survival, Cai has
been giving lectures in the campus. Yesterday, 40 students gathered to listen to
"Many students have learnt about earthquakes in books, but they have never
experienced one themselves, and don't know how to protect themselves," Cai said.
Because of the low probability of earthquakes in the region, local people
don't know what they should do, he added.
Historical data shows that the last earthquake in the region was in 1911,
with a magnitude of 5.0.
The provincial earthquake forecast centre said no further major quake was
expected, but warned that there could be many aftershocks in the coming three
(China Daily 11/29/2005 page5)