Lots of kindness amid the chaos in the quake zone
Updated: 2013-04-26 02:03
As a frontline reporter who came to Lushan county, Sichuan province, immediately after the magnitude-7 earthquake on April 20, I have met lots of kindhearted people and witnessed many moving deeds.
Less than an hour and a half after the quake, Shen Yongkang, a 38-year-old surgeon from Wenchuan County People's Hospital in Sichuan, left for Longmen in Lushan, the epicenter, with a six-person medical team.
Dong Ali, a 25-year-old nurse, got sick but never stopped working.
"People from different parts of the country helped us selflessly after the Wenchuan earthquake" in 2008 which left 69,266 people dead and 17,923 missing, she said. "We have come to Longmen to repay their kindness."
I hitched a ride with a military truck to the epicenter with two colleagues from China Daily. Also riding in the truck was Zhang Shiyue, a 16-year-old student from neighboring Tianquan county who was traveling to her home in Hengxi, a village in Lushan.
Zhang said drivers of both civilian and military vehicles were more than happy to give people in need a ride as long as there was space.
Wang Zejun, the 44-year-old chief of Longmen Township Hospital, gave his tent to four strangers who were assisting in the relief efforts. Having a tent was an asset, as there were only 450 available for 22,000 residents in the township.
Bai Huaping and Fu Mingquan, both 49-year-old farmers from the suburbs of Longmen, have been providing free boiled water at a health center for villagers and rescue teams.
Bai said he cannot stand the sight of people starving and going thirsty, especially in such conditions. Without electricity, water and gas, boiled water is a luxury for survivors. The couple run a restaurant and have also been providing free meals to villagers and rescue teams.
Fu said she saw many soldiers eating dry instant noodles without boiling them, and that one soldier fainted from hunger.
"It's heartbreaking to see this," she said. "You just can't help but lend a hand. I only attended junior high school, but I know people can help each other."
In addition to the friendly people and good deeds, I am struck by the disorder during the first three days after the quake.
Traffic jams on the two-lane mountain road leading to Lushan blocked huge military trucks carrying tents and food.
It usually takes about 40 minutes to reach Longmen from Ya'an, which has Lushan under its administration, Wang said. "But due to the traffic jam, it took around eight hours for a military truck. Without tents and food, many refugees got sick in the open air and had one box of instant noodles to eat for an entire day."
Yang Ling, a 20-year-old art design major at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China in Chengdu, is a volunteer.
"Individual volunteers who were born in the 1980s and 1990s would carry 10 bottles of water and walk 10 km an hour to reach a village," she said. "Their motivation is good, but the result is not, because they have blocked traffic and hindered large-scale rescue operations."
Police in Lushan were inexperienced and allowed everybody who said they wanted to help to enter the county. By the time they realized they had made a mistake, it was too late.
Individual volunteers should donate money and materials to the designated bureau of civil affairs instead of going directly to the quake zone.