Eye witness accounts from Yingxu town (映秀镇), May 16, 3 days after the May 12 earthquake, by www.cyol.net reporter Lin Tianhong. http://zqb.cyol.com/content/2008-05/17/content_2185786.htm

May 16 morning around 6am at the first daylight, rescue crews, although exhausted, began preparing the day's work. A army division just arrived after marching by foot through the night. They were erecting communication poles in an open field.

Currently the rescue crew numbered thousands. From 9am, a helicopter arrived every 10 minutes, dropping off drinking water and food and carrying away wounded people.

From yesterday, the town's remaining residents started leaving the area through the port opened by rescue teams. Many refused to leave the land they lived for decades. The earthquake destroyed all their belongings and they had nowhere to go.

At the front of a street rested ten or so bodies in plastic bags. A 30-year old man, ready to leave, was pouring liquor on the ground. His brother was among the dead. "Please don't take photos." The man said with tears in his eyes. "I want to forget what happened in the past few days forever."

The town has disappeared from the world. It was surrounded by mountains but now the slopes had almost no visible vegetation. Collapsed rocks and mud slides left the slopes yellow and buried houses at the foot of the mountain. Occasionally one could see some window frames.

A rescue team used a bulldozer and cleared a street. On the side a minivan looked like letter V because of a fallen telephone pole. An Audi car became a metal sheet under a wall.

Most buildings collapsed completely. The best remained one was the 6-story main classroom building at Xuanko middle school. Half of the building collapsed and the other half was tilted. From the window one could see handwritings on chalkboards.

The town's 4-story hotel was completely leveled. From the narrow opening one saw a dark-red mattress and a foot wearing a black sock.

The largest bank in town, the Farmer's Bank was also leveled, burying more than 30 people. There were no sign of life inside. Behind the collapse, rescue crew carried out a pair of bodies belonging to a mother and her daughter. They jumped down from a 2nd floor window hand in hand but a fallen concrete pile terminated their escape.

A stopped clock showed the time of the disaster: 2:45pm.

The town was the largest in the region with over 5000 residents. Near 3000 were beneath the ruins.

Many soldiers, firefighters, medical workers, carrying hundreds pounds of material and braving the continuing earth shakes and land slides, were walking to this town by foot from all sides.

The survivors has erected simple tents outside the town. They tried to rescue people who were lightly buried but could not help others without adequate tools.

Anxious people stayed next to the rescue teams. Injured residents gathered from all parts of the town. The rescue team had difficulty meeting the need.

The town's elementary school had 473 pupils. Except for two classes about 100 students taking physical exercise classes at the time of the quake, the rest 300 students were buried. May 14 morning, the rescue crew detected two signs of life using special life detection equipment. But the two children died from severe wounds shortly after being taken out from the wreckage.

30 to 40 little bodies lay on the sports field. Parents were crying by their side.

For two days, only tens of victims were saved. One survivor said that up the stream for about 8km, there was a middle school with 400 students. After the quake, the parents formed a rescue team. On their way however, two were killed by fallen stones, and the rest had to pull back.

Already 72 hours past the first earthquake. The air detected the smell of disintegrated bodies.

Food and water were still inadequate. Even many rescue teams had not enough, because in the rush to save the town, they abandoned much of their supply. Some soldiers dug a small amount of potatoes and cabbage from an abandoned farm land. Most of them had only two sausages for the entire day.

At night, the town was deadly silent and completely dark except for the light of flashlights. The river flew from tens of meters away. Huge stones continued to fall into the river, making a low pitched sound.


News items from Hanwang town, 30km from the earthquake center. http://news.xinhuanet.com/newscenter/2008-05/16/content_8182015.htm, translated by ChenDing, May 16 2008.

A student

After rescue work in another town, a government emergency rescue team arrived at Hanwang Zhen (Town of Hanwang, 汉旺镇, 漢旺鎮 ), a town 30 kilometers (less than 19 miles) from the epicenter Wenchuan (汶川), on May 13 near mid-night, delayed by the much damaged roads.

The first site was a middle school, which collapsed trapping 200 students inside. ... ... They found a female student still alive behind a wall. She told the rescue team "My name is Qin Jingwen. One of my legs is buried and hurts badly ..." Her apparently healthy mental state over 50 hours after the disaster was a relief to everyone. After two hours, the team opened a small hole on the wall. A nurse climbed half way in and injected the student with medicated liquid. The student extended her arm to receive the injection and afterwards said in her weak voice "Thank you Ma'am. Please leave now. It is dangerous here." The nurse couldn't hold off her tears.

After another hour, Qin Jingwen was rescued. During the time period, the rescue team found three other survivors.

An infant and an elder

300 meters (900 feet) away from the middle school is the residence of workers of a factory. An originally 6-floor building has sunk to five stories. May 14 near 9pm, a rescue team, consisting of firefighters from a city in the neighboring Guizhou province and medical workers from Shanghai, was searching for survivors.

They heard a weak cry for help and found between two almost closed floors an old lady shielding a baby with her body. The rescue team spent an hour coming up with a plan while reassuring the grandma who plead repeatedly sensing the absence of action. Finally, the team began a 3-step rescue plan. They supported the upper floor board using a heavy machine arm. Two soldiers crawled in to clear the obstacles. The area within a 50-meter (150 feet) circle was cleared of any movements to avoid another collapse. Three observation points were established watching the area closely.

Twenty minutes later, soldier Deng Qixing carried out the baby girl; another 5 minutes, soldier Huang Xiaowei carried out the lady to a chorus of cheers by the entire team. The grandma, Jiang Yijun, was 60 years old, and the grand daughter, Sheng Tianqi, had her one-year old birthday ten days ago.

The medical team protected their eyes with blankets to avoid sudden exposure to lights. The infant girl eagerly drunk the medicated water. By the time the grandma arrived at the medical station, her grand daughter was sipping milk with the help of a nurse. The grandma tried to turn her neck and look around until the doctor told her that the infant was right next to her and was fine.

A family

May 15 around 9:40pm, the chief doctor of the national police military hospital, Hou Shike, reported to the headquarter that in DongQi middle school, 42 students were rescued and five more survivors were found.

As the reporter rushing back with this encouraging news, s/he was stopped by the many white body bags rested on the ground of a stadium. They were counted to over 100.

A middle aged man in factory uniform came up and said "these are bodies of the victims." The reported asked "What are you doing here?" The man replied "I am volunteering to help watching the field at night." The reporter said sincerely "I hope your family is safe." The man lowered his voice "My father is dead and still buried in the building. My 14-year old daughter also ..." He pointed to one of the bodies.

"I am sorry." The reporter could only reply. The man said "Not at all. Thank you all for helping us. Beijing sent in so many rescue workers. I want to do something too." He then added "After May 12, we are one family." "If you need anything, you can find me in the first tent" He said as he walked past with his flashlight.

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Topic revision: r3 - 2008-05-17 - ChenDing
 
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