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Xinhua Insight: China mourns quake dead, draws lessons

English.news.cn   2013-04-27 18:39:54            

LUSHAN, April 27 (Xinhua) -- When horns and sirens began to wail Saturday morning, Gao Yongqiong had hallucinations again and heard her little daughter's voice.

"She said 'Hug me, mum'," said the distraught Gao.

The words and voice have resounded in her head ever since the girl, Wang Yanxia, was killed in the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that shook their hometown in Lushan County of Ya'an, a city in southwest China's Sichuan Province, on April 20.

Wang was knocked down by a falling wall and died three weeks before her fifth birthday.

She was born on May 13, 2008, the day after the devastating Wenchuan earthquake that jolted the same province. Her birth was a blessing for her quake-hit family and prompted rescuers and fellow villagers at the time to keep going.

"She was destined to be born and die at times of earthquakes," said her father, Wang Hongwu.

Now the girl rests in peace on a hill near her home in Liming village of Luyang township.


Wang's parents joined a tearful crowd for a period of public mourning at 8:02 a.m., the exact time that the quake struck last week.

They pinned white flowers to their chests, lowered their heads and stood in silence for three minutes in memory of those who died in the quake. Horns and sirens wailed in the distance.

A total of 196 people were confirmed dead as of Friday.

Jam Zomyang, a 68-year-old Tibetan woman, was in tears as she stood on the sportsground of a secondary school in Baoxing, one of the worst-hit counties in Ya'an City.

Though her own home was seriously damaged in the quake, Jam Zomyang said she was relieved that there were no casualties in her neighborhood. "We've been chanting sutra for the deceased, hoping their souls will rest in peace."

When Li Shaohua stopped to mourn, he was instantly gripped by grief and despair. For a week, he has worked from dawn to midnight, helping relief workers distribute supplies and set up tents for villagers. "I can't stop, lest I'd miss my wife and daughter terribly," said Li.

His wife Wang Mei died while trying to save their 9-year-old daughter. Both were buried in the debris of their toppled home.

Before their roof collapsed, Wang had taken her 90-year-old mother-in-law outside to safety. "She'd have survived with our daughter," said Li, who burned joss paper and incense as an offering for the dead.

In the provincial capital Chengdu, sirens wailed and horns on buses and trains were blown. Many citizens stopped on their way to work, stood in tribute and placed white flowers at a public mourning site on Tianfu square in the city center.

Mourning activities were also held outside Sichuan Province.

In the central province of Hubei, runners competing in a long-distance race put up a slogan that read "Carry on, quake-ravaged Ya'an" while everyone lowered their heads to mourn.

Monks at the Jokhang Temple in the heart of Lhasa chanted sutra to pray for the dead.


As Gao Zhirong, a teacher at Lushan County High School, mourned the quake dead, she also felt proud of her students. "I thought they were naughty, self-centered kids. They surprised me in time of danger."

Even though the quake struck on Saturday, her students were in class. All 37 teenagers were calm and quick. In two minutes, they were evacuated from their classroom on the third floor to the playground.

When they were told to go home, 25 of them volunteered to stay and help, as their campus became a major shelter for survivors.

A week on, most of the students have returned to class in makeshift tent classrooms, hoping to catch up with their school work.

Luo Dingrong dried her eyes after mourning the dead and returned to her classroom in Lushan County High School. "I have no time to waste. I will work harder for myself and Huang Xiao'ou," she said.

Huang, her close friend, died while her home collapsed in the quake. "She rarely cared about what she wore. When I finish school and find a job, I'll buy her a beautiful dress. I'll write to her and tell her everything that she's not able to find out on her own."

Others also mourned.

Quake survivor Yang Zhifang mourned the victims while in her hospital ward in Chengdu. The 44-year-old woman from Baoxing County was recuperating from surgery on her broken left hand.

"I was lucky to have survived," she said. "I hope everything will be the same as before. I'll be happy to raise pigs and grow crops as usual."

Veteran soldier Dong Yuanzhi lit up his stove shortly after the period of mourning. His makeshift tent restaurant serves free meals to rescuers in Lushan County. "This is all I can do at the moment to repay their kindness," he said.


Though China has progressed with its post-quake rescue and relief work, experts said the country still needs to improve disaster prevention and rescue efficiency.

"This is the second deadly earthquake to hit Sichuan Province within five years," said Fan Xiao, a noted geologist in Chengdu. "Some areas are already facing another round of rebuilding."

Widespread attention and criticism was aroused over construction safety after homes, schools and other public buildings were reduced to debris in the devastating earthquake of Wenchuan County that left more than 80,000 people dead or missing.

Ya'an, 200 km from Wenchuan, was also affected by that quake.

Last week's quake in Ya'an has intensified local residents' fears over whether their buildings that remain standing are still safe.

Such fears have overshadowed post-quake rebuilding now that rescue work has come to an end and new homes are being mapped out.

Experts continue to study whether damage has been done to houses that were built in Ya'an after the 2008 quake, an issue that has aroused widespread concern on the web.

To build homes and public facilities that can withstand future tremors is a major test for the government, said Fan.

"It's crucial to fully evaluate all buildings in the quake-hit -- and quake-prone -- areas and strictly implement national quake-proof standards in building homes, schools and other public facilities," said Fan.

Meanwhile, Fan said it is essential to inform the public of quake survival skills. "People tend to panic during a disaster and many were injured while hurriedly throwing themselves out of high-rise windows."

Beijing-based relief specialist Wang Zhenyao said China still lags far behind Russia and Japan in post-quake search and rescue, both in terms of equipment and expertise.

China also faces challenges in post-quake relief work, including resettlement of survivors and psychological counseling, which is expected to continue for a long time, according to Wang, a Beijing Normal University specialist for public welfare studies.

Wang was formerly a relief official with Ministry of Civil Affairs.

Editor: Zhu Ningzhu
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