As if I Am in the Room

Reporter Lin Di drove 160 kms north of Chengdu to the mountainous region of Jiangyou and Pingwu on the Fujiang river. He saw schools flattened, with blood-stained drawings on the few walls still standing.
Lin Di
2008-05-21 - Jiangyou
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A classroom blackboard stands amonf the ruins of a collapsed elementary school in Pingtong, Pingwu County, Sichuan province.
A classroom blackboard stands amonf the ruins of a collapsed elementary school in Pingtong, Pingwu County, Sichuan province.
RFA/Din Li

The road into Pingtong township, in Pingwu county, is lined with mud from landslides. Construction crews are busy repairing the road.  Pointing to a valley in the distance, a local young man tells me that an entire village is buried underneath. He says rescue workers haven't reached the valley yet, but there are probably no survivors. 

In Pingtong township, PLA soldiers and military vehicles are busying about. Along a two-km stretch of road, countless people are buried under the collapsed houses.  I visited Pingtong High School and Mingde Elementary School. Both sustained heavy loss of life. 

The main building on the campus of Mingde Elementary School is brand new and survived the quake, although its windows are shattered and its doors damaged.  Other buildings on campus all collapsed. On a crumbled wall next to where the school front gate used to be, I see ripped posters with children’s drawings.  

Thinking of dreams and hopes

A few hundred meters away up on a hill is Pingtong High School.  In the debris are blood-stained textbooks, notebooks, and satchels.  I peek through a crooked window into what used to be a second-floor dorm room. Crumbled bunk beds and clothing are scattered about.  A poster is still hanging.  It says “you will be rewarded for what you give.” I think of the dreams and hopes that must have inspired the students.  It is as if I am in the room with the students when the quake hit and I hear them calling out for help. 

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Clearing the roads and finding a path through the rubble in Pingwu county. RFA/Din Li
A local woman tells me that the bodies of the students were lined up in rows on the school’s playground. A local man who took part in rescue work says that some of the students were still alive when they were first found: “Some of the students dug out on the first day were still alive. But there was no medication to treat them. So some died in excruciating pain from lack of medicine. The roads were blocked and we couldn't get here fast enough. After we arrived, not a single injured student died. We put bandages on them. The seriously injured were taken out of here for treatment. “

Getting a ride back to Chengdu on a truck, I listen to a fellow hitch-hiker from Beichuan tell his story: “I am a migrant worker.  \I was out of town when the quake hit. I hurried home when I heard the news. I arrived home only yesterday. I lost everyone in my family, and everything.”


Lin Di is a pseudonym. He reports for the Mandarin service and filed this diary on assignment in Sichhuan.

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