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A town that no longer exists

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James Reynolds | 01:08 UK time, Saturday, 17 May 2008

The town of Beichuan was one of the worst hit in Monday's earthquake. Several days ago, we tried to get in, but the police stopped us at a road block.

So, on Friday afternoon, my colleagues and I trekked for several hours through a hilltop forest to get there. As we got closer, we could hear sirens coming from the valley below us.

Then we found Beichuan. More accurately, we found the ruins of Beichuan - because the town no longer exists. Almost every building has been damaged or destroyed.


Rescuers in orange uniforms stood on mountains of rubble deciding what to do next. When an entire town has been destroyed where do you even begin?

On the streets someone had covered a number dead bodies with a few jackets. Near a fruit and vegetable market, the body of a small child poked from the rubble .

But rescuers in the town are still finding people alive - more than 100 hours after the earthquake happened.

One BBC team followed a group of emergency workers to the 3rd floor of a local transport bureau. The workers were trying to free a 22-year-old man, Liu Chang. He was stuck under wedges of concrete. But Mr Liu was fully conscious and wide-eyed. He was able to grab the bottles of water that the workers passed to him. But they kept from him the news that his mother had died in the quake.

As the sun came down, we watched rescuers free a woman from the collapsed offices of a local power company.

Elsewhere, amid the debris, these are the things that stick in my mind: the washing still on the lines in people's homes, a well-fed dog with a collar that refused to leave the front door of a damaged house, and a photo album - with carefully ordered pictures of a young woman posing with her friends.


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