Disaster: Self help and survival

Updated: 2013-04-25 07:30

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

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Fearing a large number of injuries in the village, Li and the other residents went from door to door, calling out and checking to see if anyone was trapped inside.

Disaster: Self help and survival

Relief supplies arrive at Fujiaying village in Lushan county, Sichuan province. Photo by Feng Yongbin / China Daily

Li said he let out a long sigh of relief when every one of the more than 800 villagers was gathered unscathed outside.

"Thank goodness, we were all alive and fine," said Li, his voice still hoarse a few days after the disaster.

Li served as a village Party chief for three decades and helped villagers to organize the cleanup operation in the immediate aftermath of the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake, so naturally the villagers all came to him for help.

First, he led a group to assess the damage to buildings. In the short gaps between aftershocks, they rescued a few basic goods, such as grain, water, pans, blankets and boards from the few houses they identified as still being stable. The villagers hastily erected several temporary shelters from sheeting and poles to provide a living space for the elderly and children.

When Mu Yonghong returned to Fujiaying from Neijiang city, Sichuan province, where he works two days after the quake, he feared the worst. However, he found his wife and two children sitting safely in one of the shelters.

"The villagers helped my kids out after the quake. Without them, I might not have seen my kids again," said the 40 year old.

Another resident, Zhang Guohe, 38, said: "Earthquakes are natural disasters, after all. We cannot all depend on aid from outside. I heard that some people have been killed in the neighboring villages. Not every one has been as lucky as us.

"I hope our village committee can play a more effective role in self help and maintain a sound relationship with the town government. Then, if other disasters or emergencies occur, the rescue workers and supplies might reach us earlier," he said.

Disaster: Self help and survival

Children attempt to clean mud from their shoes in a makeshift shelter in Fujiaying village. Photo by Feng Yongbin / China Daily