The violent earthquake in the Chinese Sichuan Province on May the 12th killed thousands of people. Many times more people were injured. Virtually the entire region is in ruins and many inhabitants have become homeless. Chinese students and staff workers of the TU/e who come from that region or have friends or relatives there are living through the disaster with them. Among them is Jing Li MSc., a PhD candidate from the Visualization group of Mathematics and Computer Science. She is from Chengdu, the capital of the Province of Sichuan, at a distance of ninety kilometers from the epicenter of the earthquake.
Jing Li: “Luckily, my parents and relatives are fine so far. However, they are still in a panic, dread, and sorrow.“ On the day of the earthquake Jing Li could not reach them and she worried a lot. But later on, she could get through after forty times of dialing. “My friends in other cities in China also helped me to call my parents“, Jing Li explains.
Her parents told Jing Li there are cracks in the wall of their apartment. The hanging lamp fell on the floor. All the books in the bookshelf splashed on the floor and the door to the balcony is distorted. Jing Li: “When the earthquake came, they tried to run out of the building. However, it shook so heavily that nobody could stand stable and all people were blocked in the stairwell.“
She thinks that although her parents are in shock now, they are lucky that the building they live in survived. Jing Li heard some dreadful stories and does not want to think what could have happened to them: “So many people were killed under the rubble of collapsed buildings. My cousin told me through MSN that some students died when jumping out of the window during the earthquake at Sichuan university where she is studying. People walking on the street were smashed to death by heavy parts dropping from buildings, for example a garbage collector from the neighborhood.“
Jing Li called her parents every afternoon the past week. They said the shaking was still continuing, and people could not sleep at home relaxed. They heard many rumors in the neighborhood and were nervous every minute. “Every day the ground is shaking a thousand times, sometimes it is light, sometimes it is heavy. It is like standing on a ship”, Jing Li explains. “People scream during the night and everybody becomes jumpy by having to run outside every time“, her parents told her.
“My mum feels really sick of this, physically and psychologically“, she says. “The office building where my dad worked was ruptured, and had been judged by an expert team to be 'dead'.“
Jing Li continues: “The day after the earthquake all packages of water and instant noodles were sold out in supermarket. Gas stations were controlled to ensure the supplies for ambulances and transportation of materials and soldiers into the heavily injured areas. People stayed out of the buildings for nights even when it was raining hard.“
“The CCTV channels stopped all the entertainment programs,“ says Jing Li, “they were only reporting the progress of saving lives. My parents saw on television that the premier flew to Chengdu right after the earthquake. He is an elderly man of almost 70 years old. When he saw so many areas were affected and so many people were buried, he sniffled and was unable to speak. He promised local people that the whole country would support them. Communication channels will be repaired and the government will make sure that gas, water and food is supplied to the disaster area.“
“Terrible things have happened in the disaster area, I've been told”, says Jing Li. “At the rescue spots, dead bodies were everywhere. In local hospitals, cut-off hands and legs were piled up like hills, because of the many amputations which where necessary for the people who were rescued from the rubble. My uncle works in a local hospital, he is also helping with the rescue work. I heard from him about the situation in that hospital.“
“Some local schools were having class during the time of the earthquake; the school buildings were destroyed completely and many children died.“
Rescue work difficult
“Most of the heavily injured areas are the famous sightseeing spots in Sichuan”, according to Jing Li. Many small villages in this area are scattered, and because of the weather and the special geometrical composition of this area, rescue work is very difficult”, says Jing Li. “I learned from the Internet that the air force even decided to send parachutists to those areas where helicopters couldn't land.“
Jing Li: “My parents saw on television that many countries and people from many regions were offering help and support. My parents said when they heard of this they got a warm feeling in their hearts knowing the world is helping to save lives. My parents where relatively lucky. I already spoke to TU/e students who have relatives living much nearer the epicenter. They are very sad and need some time to face this. They need support from their class-mates, supervisors, and surroundings.“/.