'After disaster, life continues'

(China Daily)
Updated: 2010-08-11 07:59
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ZHOUQU, Gansu - Tuesday was our third day in the disaster area. The sadness on people's faces was fading into blank expressions of numbness. While an overwhelming sense of death and sorrow hung in the air, life carried on, as some food stores, banks and even a stationer reopened for business.

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A group of children, some with scratches on their faces, appeared to have absorbed the initial shock of the tragedy, as they mixed with new friends they met in the blue tents where they have been temporarily housed.

Construction workers who survived the tragedy played cards in the corner of their shelters at night after completing their voluntary rescue work for the day.

The disaster has bound people together. When my two colleagues and I lost our balance while we stood on the debris to survey the devastating scene before us, many rescue workers responded to save us from falling into the sludge.

Almost everyone - armed police, doctors and surviving locals - was also willing to share their bottled water or a bit of their steamed bread to help us - three exhausted, unequipped journalists - keep thirst and hunger at bay.

Having nowhere to sleep, my two colleagues and I have slept less than six hours over the past two days. We were overjoyed when we found shelter in an unfinished concrete building where there was a bamboo bed for us to lie on and rest.

We were heartened to learn that three more colleagues are on the way to join us with provisions we so desperately need: food, water and sleeping bags.

Meanwhile, people in the county continue to struggle to come to terms with the tragedy that engulfed them, as the combined aroma of disinfectant, sweat, dust and rotting bodies hung heavily in the air.

Wild dogs wandered aimlessly on the street beside dusty people, while junkmen dressed in rags unloaded empty plastic water bottles and bodies were pulled from the debris.

In the midst of it all, life carried on. Some cake and dairy shops were selling food. Despite shortages, their proprietors had not raised the prices they charged and some of them provided free food to the Armed Police and other rescue workers.

Chen Hua, who owns a shoe store, was digging shoes out of his muddy shop window, salvaging what he could. Grateful that his family had survived the landslide, he said: "After disaster, life continues."