Chinese Are Left to Ask Why Schools Crumbled in Quake

The New York Times is the latest to investigate why children represent such a large proportion of the dead from the Sichuan earthquake. Although the report below says there is no official data on the numbers of children killed, according to Sichuan authorities, as of 4:00 pm, May 21, 6581 students and teachers died, 8810 were wounded, 1274 are missing, and 1107 are still buried:

There is no official figure on how many children died at Xinjian Primary School, nor on how many died at scores of other schools that collapsed in the powerful May 12 earthquake in Sichuan Province. But the number of student deaths seems likely to exceed 10,000, and possibly go much higher, a staggering figure that has become a simmering controversy in China as grieving parents say their children might have lived had the schools been better built.

The Chinese government has enjoyed broad public support for its handling of the earthquake, and in Sichuan on Saturday, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations praised the government’s response.

But as parents at different schools begin to speak out, the question of whether official negligence, and possibly corruption, contributed to the student deaths could turn public opinion. The government has launched an investigation, but censors, wary of the public mood, are trying to suppress the issue in state-run media and online.

The New York Times article also includes a video segment.

The Washington Post also reports:

Since the quake, parents’ grief has turned to anger.

Why, they ask, did the school collapse when other nearby buildings, including government offices, the teachers’ dormitory and even an old classroom building housing pet rabbits, withstood the quake?

The same question is being asked all over Sichuan, as residents have started to notice that, on street after street, schools collapsed while most government buildings did not. In Mianzhu county, a quarter of the 43 primary and secondary schools caved in, leaving more than 1,000 students dead, while the gleaming government complex remained fully operational and is now a staging area for emergency rescue and cleanup operations.

Read more about the collapsed schools, via CDT.

May 24, 2008 8:39 PM
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Categories: Society