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China earthquake: more pupils buried by more collapsed shoddy school buildings

Posted by Author on May 14, 2008

Jane Macartney in Juyuan, (Sichuan province, southwest China), The Times Online, UK, May 14, 2008-

Gao Jianli lay under a quilt on the sports ground where she once played basketball, her mother and cousin at her side.

She looked as though she had simply fallen asleep, but her mother’s keening and the flickering candles by her white-stockinged feet told another story.

“She has no injuries, she wasn’t crushed,” her cousin said. “She must have been alive for a long time. In the end she suffocated.”

Gao Jiali was just 15. She died with hundreds of her schoolmates when the Juyuan Middle School crumbled under the force of the 7.9 magnitude earthquake that struck China on Monday. Only two children were brought out alive.

Now her weeping mother was gently slipping clean trousers over her limp legs to make sure that Gao Jiali would make her last journey in new clothes. Then there was a final farewell hug before the men came to carry the child away in a procession with her classmates to the bus that would take them to the mortuary.

Behind the row of bodies, troops circled the ruins. A crane lifted slabs of concrete from the flattened five-storey school. One man had watched the destruction in stunned disbelief. “It took just ten seconds. One moment the school was there and then it was gone,” he said.

Frightened residents of Juyuan were sheltering from the driving rain under plastic sheeting. One family huddled together for warmth beside the ruins of their home. Chunks of concrete lay scattered around the metal chairs where they sat wrapped in quilts against the chill rain.

Without power, survivors were living on bread and packets of biscuits, unable to light a fire to boil water or cook because of the rain.

Their patience was beginning to snap. “This is the fault of the Government,” a bystander said angrily as he watched rescuers sift through the rubble of the school. “They were too slow. Look, it’s already 30 hours or more since the earthquake and our children are still lying in there.”

Another man, who had come to search for his nephew, was outraged by the shoddy building work that helped to topple the school. “Look at all the buildings around. They were the same height but why did the school fall down? It’s because the contractors want to make a profit from our children. They cut corners. They use poor-quality cement. And the Government turns a blind eye.

“These buildings just weren’t made for that powerful a quake. Some don’t even meet the basic specifications,” said Dai Jun, a structural engineer surveying the damage.

Lining the side of the road, several families had stretched sheets of white, red and blue plastic over wooden poles. “I hope the Government can give us a tent soon,” said one middle-aged man. “How can I keep my family warm and dry like this?”

The main highway from the provincial capital, Chengdu, to the devastated town of Dujiangyan and into the mountains beyond was open only to ambulances and to troops and relief workers heading to the disaster area.

One man from Chengdu had piled his car high with bottled water, instant noodles and biscuits and was planning to drive as far as he could. “I am taking this up to the people in the disaster area. The television is saying they are short of water and tents. The army will bring tents but I want to help a little with food for the victims.”

A primary school in the nearby town of Dujiangyan also collapsed. There were reports of 1,000 students and teachers killed or missing after a six-storey high school in Beichuan county crumbled into a pile of rubble. Those able to make contact with relatives in the county said the old town on a steep hillside had been buried in a landslide. The new town on the bank of a river had slid into the water.

One man with relatives in the town said: “I can only imagine how many people could have survived such a disaster.” State media said that up to 5,000 people were killed……. (more details from The Times Online: China quake: ‘One moment the school was there, then it was gone’)

China earthquake: 400 pupils buried by collapsed shoddy school building in Dujiangyan

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