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Buried under rubble

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James Reynolds | 10:13 UK time, Thursday, 15 May 2008

Another late night post (I write this at 3 in the morning). Spent the day driving around Sichuan province looking at the earthquake damage.

In one city, we saw desperate family members trying to break through a police line to get news of their missing relatives. As we drove along, we saw lines of people living in tents by the side of the road.

chinadoor226.jpgOn one corner, there was a queue of people carrying empty buckets waiting to fill them up with fresh water. Soldiers turned us back from one village where rescue efforts were still going on.

At dusk we headed into the small village of Yue Jing. From the village's corn fields and cabbage patches you get a good view of the surrounding hills and mountains.

Many houses in this village are now rubble. The Fu and the Chen families share a single tent between 10 people. A little way down a lane, Fu Zhou Chen has moved his family out of the remains of their home in case it falls down.

Further on, Chen Shun Qiang and his wife Wan Xin Ping have set up camp in a small tent built on the remains of their home (they cooked their evening meal of rice porridge in the open air).

We kept walking - past a dog chained to a doorpost (the dog was still faithfully guarding his owner's home even though the house itself was now a pile of debris.)

One man walking with us pointed to a collapsed house at the end of the alleyway. He told us that the woman who lived inside the house had been killed and that her body was still trapped beneath the rubble.

I wasn't sure whether or not to believe the story (when we first got into the village, one woman told me that hundreds of people in the village had been killed. But someone else insisted that no more than three people had died).

Then, the story of the woman buried under rubble became clear. An elderly man wearing a brown overcoat several sizes too big for him walked up to the house. He was followed by a younger woman wearing a green cardigan.

chinareynolds226.jpgThe elderly man told me his name was He Si Yong (the younger woman was his daughter He Rong - she had just flown in from the coast to be with him.)

On Monday afternoon, when the earthquake happened, Mr He had been out in the nearby fields. His wife Wang Ding Fen was resting at home in their living room. After the quake, Mr He ran back to the house - but he found that everything was destroyed. His wife was underneath the rubble - there was no chance she could have survived. Their home is now her coffin.

Mr He said he'd heard that rescue workers might be able to come and dig out his wife's body in a few hours, but he wasn't sure. As he talked quietly, He Si Yong stood close to his daughter - it reminded me of the way young children stand close to their mothers for support.

We said goodbye, walked through the corn fields, and back towards the hills.

PS - a quick note. The places we've been able to get to have been reasonably accessible. Life in the areas which have been cut off is much worse.


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