Earthquake in Sichuan

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

So soon after I finished my series on the great earthquakes of my life, one of the biggest quakes of our lifetimes hit China. Its epicenter was something like 200 miles from where I spent the summer teaching English four years ago (South West China Normal University), and perhaps 300 miles from the quake I described here. The 7.9 quake that struck yesterday near Chengdu is estimated to have killed over 12,000. Officials fear some 18,000 people may be buried under debris. In some areas, 80% of the buildings have been destroyed.

I quickly wrote to the students I am in contact with, and have now heard back from five. I quote them using the English names we used in class.

Solomon, a graduate student in art, was on a class field trip to Luodai, an ancient section of Chengdu. He writes, “I was right in the Chengdu yesterday seeing about the ancient town. My teacher was injured in the accident. So we came back to Chongqing last night immediately.” Solomon sent me several photographs. He tooked the first at Luodai, in the first minutes after the quake.

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Photo copyright Wang Shuo.

The second photo shows students spending the night outdoors at South West China Normal University, Beibei, Chongqing. Solomon says they spent the entire night outdoors.
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Photo copyright Wang Shuo.

Carter, going to a university about 900 miles from home, reported, “I am in Shandong now, so the earthquake didn't give me too much trouble. When I heard the news of earthquake, I called my parents and friends in the first time. However, because of the damage to communication system in Sichuan and Chongqing, it was very hard to contact with them. Fortunately, I contacted with them 2 hours later.”

Vera, also at a university in Shandong, writes, “The earthquake happened in the afternoon around 3pm, and ShanDong wasn't affected by that shake. But my home (in Chongqing) was affected by the earthquake, luckily, it was not serious. And I have made phone calls to my parents, and both of them are okay. My father even joked that he was watching the cars in the yard dancing discos.”

Eunice is a graduating senior at a language university in Chongqing. Her parents are both on the staff at a hospital in Beibei, about an hour from her university. “Yesterday was a terrible day really! I was standing on the playground and waiting for our final photographing of graduates at the moment of earthquake. When I saw flood of students running out from the classrooms and dorms I didn't realize for several seconds what happened. People all crowded on the playground with panic expression. Then, about one hour later we still took the pictures and I sent one to you. I think it has special meaning. It is the first time for me and almost all the Chongqing people to experience an real earthquake. We are much terrified. Last night I went back home and found my parents safe, which made me no more anxious. We can still feel some very light shakings every now and then, but they are not terrifying. My family are safe, and my relatives in Chengdu are also safe. The two cities have returned to peace and people are trying to help the destroyed areas in Wenchuan, Dujiangyan, Deyang and other counties of Sichuan Province. My parents aren't sent to Sichuan, but I know there has been a Chongqing medical team sent there.”

Angel is teaching English at a middle school in Guandong, about 600 miles southeast of Chongqing. She writes, “My family and I are well. Like you, I am so worry about my classmates and friends of university, most of whom are from Southwest China. Today when I saw that about ten thousand people have died from the quake, I immediately made a call on them. To my great relief, they are all safe and sound, though their houses were badly damaged. Our school will organize teachers and students to donate some money and other things to the stricken area. It's a good chance to help them. I will do my effort. All hands make work light. Only all of us unite together can we overcome the disaster. Last winter, we suffered a once-every-50-year big snow, and people all around China tried every effort to help and support each other, which resulted in the success over the anti-snow disaster.”

As I hear from other friends and former students, I will add to this post.

Posted by Brian at 10:12 AM  


Everything will be fine. I believe.

Anonymous said...
May 13, 2008 at 9:02 PM  

Most of the highways in Chengdu are available now.And I hope my uncle's family will arrive Chongqing safely this afternoon.

Anonymous said...
May 13, 2008 at 10:46 PM  

My family and many residents of Beibei are watching TV or listening to the radio,caring much about the situation in earthquake-hit areas.And I see many people donating blood and money alone the streets.I believe we Chinese people can get through this!

Anonymous said...
May 14, 2008 at 4:46 AM  

Hi,Carroll,how are you?you may forgot me now,i am Cindy,one of your students in Beibei.i was really appreciate to say your words and concerns about China's earthquake.wish everything is gonna be fine.
i will go to America on June to participate the work and travel in America program about 3 months.

Anonymous said...
May 14, 2008 at 5:05 AM  

Hello Cindy!
How nice to hear from you. I just tried sending an email to the last address I have for you, but delivery failed. Do you know yet where you will be this summer in the USA? If you come near California, I would love to see you. You can email my yahoo address. I am bcarroll49.

Brian said...
May 14, 2008 at 7:46 AM  

Eunice & Carter,
I agree with you. I am very confident the Chinese people will get through this, and be even stronger for it. But it is still a painful time, especially for the individual families who have lost homes and family members, and for those who are injured. I pray that help and comfort will reach them quickly.

Brian said...
May 14, 2008 at 7:54 AM  

I am glad to hear the highways are open. I pray that the there will soon be clean water for everyone left in Chengdu.

Brian said...
May 14, 2008 at 7:56 AM  

I visited Chengdu last September and feel sag about what is happening over there. Luckily, Jiuzhaigou, Huanglong, Leshan Buddha and Chengdu is not very much damaged by the quake. Luobo Village is not that lucky though...

Anonymous said...
May 25, 2008 at 8:57 AM  

Thank you, Jam, for commenting. I am pulling out my map to locate these places. This morning I read an article in the NY Times about a school that was isolated for ten days after the quake. As an elementary school teacher myself, it really touched me.

Brian said...
May 25, 2008 at 9:38 AM  

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