Isolation smashed as rescuers build lifeline

Updated: 2013-04-23 07:16

By Hu Yongqi in Ya'an, Sichuan, and He Na, Jiang Xueqing in Beijing (China Daily)

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After two days of waiting in desperation, residents of Wuxing, a village just 2 km from Lushan county seat, the epicenter of Saturday's earthquake in Sichuan province, finally saw their first glimmer of hope.

The villagers, whose homes sustained extensive damage in the quake, received their first shipment of aid - huge quantities of water and instant noodles - on Monday afternoon. More supplies are set to arrive in the days to come.

Isolation smashed as rescuers build lifeline

The quake, which razed 90 percent of the houses in the village of 5,890 residents, left three people dead.

"I guess it may be attributable to the lack of media coverage, but our village has received very little attention so far. We badly need food, water and tents," said Hu Xia.

"There are many infants in the village, and they are going without baby formula. We have to feed them rice soup instead. Some of the older kids cry all day long because they are so hungry. How can little kids live on just noodles?" asked the 29-year-old mother of two young daughters. She called for urgent deliveries of rice and other food the children will find more palatable.

Despite their gratitude, many villagers said the aid provided so far is simply not enough to stave off the hunger and cold. Some expressed a mixture of discontent and understanding.

"Except for a few ambulances, very little attention has been paid to the village after the quake. We thought we had been forgotten. What's disappointed us most is that two days have passed, but the members of our village committee haven't even shown up yet," said another resident, villager Wang Dingbang.

"We can only depend on ourselves. We rescued some items from collapsing houses and constructed several makeshift shelters. But, of course, we understand that resources are limited because there are just so many victims. As long as people don't forget about us, things will be fine," said the 71 year old.

The electricity and water supplies were cut off by the quake, according to Wang, so villagers have been collecting water from an abandoned well. "The water is a little muddy, but it has helped us during these two days. The makeshift shelters we've erected are not waterproof at all. We need more tents, please," he said.

Buildings destroyed

The high mountains and deep valleys that dominate the local landscape are breathtakingly beautiful, but their sheer scale has hampered relief efforts and provided plenty of headaches for rescue workers as they struggle to reach isolated communities

However, Wuxing is not the only village in these forbidding mountains where residents have been forced to wait for aid to arrive in the wake of the magnitude-7 quake. Qinglongchang, Gucheng, and Qinglong are still in desperate need of relief supplies.

Isolation smashed as rescuers build lifeline

Villagers survey the remains of their houses in Wuxing.

In Qinglongchang, one of the places hit hardest in Longmen town, almost every house has been damaged to some degree. It's estimated that more than 80 percent of them are now uninhabitable.

The only sealed road linking the village with the outside world has been destroyed, buried beneath collapsed houses. Villagers have managed to clear some parts of the road, but only to the extent that motorbikes or bicycles can use it. Cars and trucks will have to wait.

The village has 1,000 residents, scattered across 300 households. Luckily for them, most were working in the fields when the quake struck and despite the collapsed buildings, no deaths were reported in the village although around a dozen people were injured.

Chen Tianping, 40, has been sharing a shelter with 50 other people. Resources are scarce, and so five or six people huddle together beneath each blanket. Chen said she is unable to sleep at nights, not only because of the continuing aftershocks and the crying of the children, but also because she is deeply worried about the future.

The mother of two teenage students said her husband's leg was injured by falling masonry and the things she, and the other villagers, want most are food, water and a safe place to live.

"Most of the houses in the village were two-story buildings. We always stored our food on the top floor, partly to keep it away from rats, but also to allow corn to dry thoroughly. When the house started to shake, we were so scared. We rushed outside without thinking to collect any food or other belongings," said Chen.

Her house was one of few in the village with three stories. After the quake it was reduced to just two. The aftershocks come almost every hour, and no one dares to enter the unstable buildings to search for food.

The village head and local Party secretary in Qinglongchang travel to the center of Longmen town every day to collect bottled water and instant noodles. Each villager is rationed to two half-liter bottles of water and one cup of instant noodles a day, far from sufficient to meet the demand.

Isolation smashed as rescuers build lifeline

Supplies of instant noodles arrive at Wuxing village in Lushan county. Photos by Feng Yongbin / China Daily

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