Left-behind kids, women, elderly suffer in hard-hit region
Updated: 2013-04-22 07:22
By Hu Yongqi and Zhao Lei in Lushan, Sichuan, He Na in Beijing (China Daily)
Cheng Yuezhen (right), 60, and her daughter-in-law Yao Linqun stand in front of their house, which was destroyed by the quake in Longmen township. Feng Yongbin / China Daily
Chen Fuzhen had almost forgotten she's a woman since her husband went to work in Chongqing several years ago. She has had to take care of the whole family, two children and to frail elderly people, all by herself.
The 31-year-old never cried in front of others, especially not her family members because she wants them to see her strong side.
But her strong mask completely collapsed after narrowly escaping from the earthquake that thrashed the township of Longmen in Lushan county on Saturday morning.
Chen was bathing her infant son on the second floor with her 11-year-old daughter when the earthquake rocked the house. She grabbed them and ran downstairs.
But she fell down. Chen struggled to stand up and carry the two children out of the house with all her strength.
The house collapsed as soon as they ran out, and Chen sat in front of the house crying with two frightened children staring at her.
"What should I do with the two kids? I've never been so helpless in my life," Chen said.
It's a scene that played out in almost every family in Longmen after the quake. Chen is not the only woman feeling helpless - all the other left-behind women, children and elderly feel the same.
Longmen is one of the major laborer export townships in Sichuan, and most of the young men, especially those from the countryside, go to big or coastal cities for higher paying jobs to support the family.
"If the men were at home when the earthquake happened, maybe more people would have been saved or uninjured," said Zhang Qingqiu, also 31, whose 9-month-old son is her only company in village of Gucheng.
"The boy was frightened, screamed and cried heavily last night. The baby formula was buried inside the house. What should I do if no disaster relief goods for babies come," Zhang said.
More than 160 left-behind children live in Gucheng and the number can be much higher in the town.
Zhang said a 12-year-old girl in the town was badly hurt when she tried to save her 2-year-old brother. They are both left-behind children, and their grandparents were not at home when the earthquake struck. "Poor kids, they wouldn't have to suffer the pain if parents were at home," Zhang said.
A teacher from Longmen Township Chenyang Hope Primary School, who declined to give his name, expressed his worries about his left-behind students.
"There are 88 students in two classes that I teach, and more than half of them are left-behind children. Their parents mainly work in coastal cities, and only a small number of them rushed back after the quake," he said.
"Many students are very frightened, and some female students even started to cry. More counseling should be made available for them."
Left-behind children, women and elderly pose some difficulties for the disaster rescue and relief work. To ensure that all earthquake victims receive relief goods, rescue workers have to distribute them from household to household.
Cheng Zhirong's house was flattened by the quake, and, luckily, her 18-month son and paralyzed mother-in-law were not injured. She takes care of the two and hasn't had time to get disaster relief goods.
In Wangjia, villagers built a big tent in a field that accommodates 60 people. Most of them are elderly people and children. The oldest one is 96 years old and the youngest 7 months.
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(China Daily 04/22/2013 page2)