Wednesday, May 14, 2008

First Hand Account From The China Quake

Yesterday, we posted about our travels last summer through parts of Sichuan, China, not too far from the awful earthquake that occurred Monday. Below is a first-hand account from a cousin of my father-in-law (who emigrated from China immediately after WWII). The cousin lives in Sichuan, not too far from the quake, but out of the primary damage zone.

You get a good sense from this account as to how widely felt the earthquake was, and of the resolve and resiliency of the Chinese people.

We have not edited his account, other than some clarifications in brackets--we can assure you that his English is a lot better than our Chinese!

"Dear Brother Shulong,

You would have known the tragedy occurred in Sichuan . A major earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale hit Wenchuan County(汶川) in southwest China's Sichuan Province at 2:28 p.m. on Monday, Many parts of China , even the remote southern island province of Hainan , and Bangkok of Thailand, felt the quake.

Deyang [where our correspondent lives] is not far from Wenchuan—only about 100km . Mianzhu County(绵竹县), which, under the jurisdiction of Deyang City, is only 36km from the epicenter, was damaged seriously , causing heavy casualties. Shifang (什邡),another county under the jurisdiction of Deyang City, was also seriously affected, where a chemical factory collapsed ; more than thousand people were buried. As for Deyang City itself, the situation was much better.

When the quake occurred, Quanlu [his wife] was drinking wine in front of the TV set and three cleaners were cleaning my house [an apartment]. I was going to the kitchen to take dishes. I was the first one felt the floor under my feet was trembling strongly.

I immediately sensed what the matter was. I shouted “Earthquake! Run out quickly! " I dashed out of the door; the cleaners followed. Quanlu responded a little slower and was the last one running out. In a minute, lots of people rushed out from the buildings to the yard, all shocked.

The tremor lasted one or two minutes. It calmed down temporarily. I returned into my house, I saw some wine bottles fell down to the floor, broken. And the water in a bowl in the kitchen splashed on the ground. Soon I felt the aftershocks again and again, not as strong as the first one. I went out to the yard. There an old woman living in the upper part of the [apartment] building told us lots of things had fallen down to the floor, even the TV set. We’ve never experienced such a big earthquake.

Soon the water supply was stopped, the electric supply was cut off. The cleaners couldn’t finish their work, but to leave it to be done the next day. We didn’t know where the epicenter was, since we couldn’t watch TV and open the computer.

I called Zhichuan who had returned to Shenzhen on May 5. He searched websites on his computer and told me immediately that the epicenter was in Wenchuan. We heaved a sigh of relief.

After having finished the lunch, we took a nap as usually. We woke up at five o’clock and saw lots of people were still in the yard. We joined them. We felt not big aftershocks from time to time. When it was getting dark, there were still no water, no electricity.

Not a few people didn’t want to go back to their apartments; but we did. We had a calm attitude. There were two advantages we had : 1) Our building was constructed according to the standards of anti -7 earthquake; 2) We live on the first floor, so we could run out quickly if necessary.

We lit a candle and listened to the tracking reports from our battery –powered mini radio, while taking the supper. The electricity and water supply were not restored before midnight. When we could use electricity, we turned on TV immediately to get the new tracking reports with images. When there were no fresh news broadcast, we went to bed.

I was awakened by the quiver of the bed and the windows. I felt it was a little bigger aftershock than those occurred in the afternoon. I heard noise in the yard. Some of our neighbors had run out of their departments to the yard. But Quanlu was still slept sound.

Now the governments at all levels regard earthquake rescue and relief as the top priority. A large number of the army, armed police and paramilitary forces, as well as medical personnel are sent to the quake-hit areas as soon as possible, mounting all-out efforts to save the injured and reduce the impact caused by the havoc.

We are closely watching the development of the search and rescue work. And I believe Chinese people will unite closely to defeat this great natural disasters."

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