The rain pours down. Desperate family members crawl around, hoping, in the wreckage of the Juyuan Elementary School. Members of the national search and rescue team start to search as soon as they arrive, but the building has collapsed into a pile of broken rock. This elite, most well-equipped branch of the Chinese earthquake rescue team can only use that most primitive of tools, their hands, to dig through the rubble. In the end, they only dig out two living students, but in the process they pull out corpse after corpse.
One member of the rescue team explodes with anger: “It’s this tofu dregs construction! Inside the concrete, there’s only wire, not a single bit reinforcing bar.”
The original building was constructed in 1994. Later, other buildings were put up on the same ground. When the earthquake hit, the other buildings had no problems. Only the school collapsed. Two-hundred and seventy-eight students in seventeen classes had their lives ripped from them. An additional 11 are still missing.
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Photo: Ruins of the Central School of Hongbai, Sichuan.