Chengdu Earthquake day after

Here is a story I wrote that didn’t find space … its a time-pegged story which means I can probably not publish it anywhere else. So here you are, a look at what was happening in the Du the day after:

In Chengdu a slight drizzle coats thousands of people who have taken to the streets and open public spaces, rather than spend the night in their apartments. The city, mercifully spared the destruction that has ravaged areas further north, has resumed bus transportation around the city. Restaurants and supermarkets are open and phone lines are more or less open.

It is the day after the largest earthquake in more than 30 years reduced vast areas of northwestern Sichuan Province to rubble, killing at least 11,000 people, with more reported missing or buried under rubble. More than 500,000 buildings have collapsed, according to state television, and coal, oil and chemical plants have been ordered to halt production following the disastrous collapse of two ammonia plants in Shifang, which buried more than 900 people, killing at least 90.

In Chengdu, hundreds of cars line up around gas stations, waiting to receive their ration of 100RMB worth of gas – about 30 liters based on current prices.

“There is no more gasoline being delivered for the time being,” said Wang Bo, a custodian at the PetroChina gas station on Yong Feng Road in south Chengdu. “Only official vehicles can fill up, all others are allotted only 100RMB worth.”

Many of the vehicles are actually waiting out the shocks and tremors which have continued into the morning and afternoon following yesterday’s 7.9 earthquake that leveled buildings in the counties and municipalities of Wenchuan, Beichuan. Mianyang, Deyang and Dujiangyan.

“We are not getting any reliable information from the government,” said Mr. Liu, a local resident standing next to his car on the south side of the city. “We were told to leave our apartments because there will be another quake sometime before six o’clock. I don’t dare go back home, so my family and I will wait here.”

Earlier today, an aftershock measuring 6.5 rocked Wenjiang, just 30 minutes outside of Chengdu. The tremors and shocks from that quake had the city’s residents jittery all day — the atmosphere became ripe for rumors. Nobody is sure where the rumors began, but almost all apartment complexes in the city have been emptied of people. Residents are forced to wait in their cars, under umbrellas and tents or in teahouses across the city listening to the radio and waiting for the tremors to stop.

Wang Xiao Qing and her niece Li Ya Juan spent last night in a tent on the Second Ring Road in Chengdu. They plan on staying outside and sleeping in an open space tonight, as well. Ms. Wang’s sister, the mother or Miss Li, is a Mianyang, Pingwu native and they have heard nothing from that area since the earthquake hit.

“We were told by the apartment authorities to stay out of our homes today, because a big earthquake will hit again this afternoon, sometime before six,” said Ms Wang. “I have heard nothing from my sister – I am worried, but not worried at the same time. I just wish we had reliable information, it is hard to know what is really going on.”

The State Council organized a live press conference this afternoon, giving the exact number of official dead – 11,922 – and expressing thanks for the offers of international assistance from around the world.

“We welcome aid in the form of materials and money from the international community,” said a State Council spokesman. “But we cannot allow foreign relief teams to enter China at this time, as our own teams have not yet managed to reach the worst-affected sites.”

Chengdu’s International Shuangliu airport re-opened this morning at 8am to allow relief teams from around China to get into the area. Rail lines across the country have been damaged by the earthquake, including one gasoline-filled freight train which was derailed in Gansu, subsequently bursting into flame. According to Xinhua, 149 cargo trains have been delayed or blocked on their way to Chengdu.

In a lighthearted moment, a slight tremor this afternoon sent the entire staff of the luxury hotpot restaurant, Huang Cheng Lao Ma, scattering into the street. Young women in uniform were giggling uncontrollably and holding each other. The last one to walk out was the manager, a large, heavy-set man who sauntered out of the restaurants doors to applause from his staff out on the street.

Local officials have stressed that the worst is over and that only small tremors will be felt from here on out, but residents of Chengdu are not convinced. Few are returning to their homes and most are taking their safety in their own hands by stocking up on water, flour and peanuts.

“I am spending the day in San Sheng Xiang (a flower manufacturing base 20 minutes southeast of the city) with water and cigarettes,” said Ran Wei. “I don’t know if there will be another big one and neither does anyone else.”

Local radio stations report that caravans of volunteers are heading north to Dujiangyan with water, tents and supplies, but these reports could not be independently confirmed. Tents and umbrellas were being passed out at elementary schools around the city to small children, the elderly and handicapped and local TV also asked for concerned locals to take care of each other and to seek out the elderly and weak to help them with water and shelter.

“The last time we felt anything like this was back in 1976 when an earthquake hit Songpan,” said elderly resident Xu Qing Guo. “This one is more horrible, because the tremors keep coming and we don’t know when it will all end. Al I can do is sit out here with my wife and listen to the radio.”

Picture of Sascha Matuszak
Sascha Matuszak

One thought on “Chengdu Earthquake day after

  1. Thanks for your commentary. I like it more than anything I’ve read on major news sites. Keep up the good work.

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