‘This is Not a Natural Disaster – This is Done by Humans’ (Updated)

The Guardian tells the heartbreaking stories of parents whose children were killed when their schools collapsed in the Sichuan earthquake:

One man showed his raw, filthy hands. He didn’t want to give his name but said his 12-year-old son Futian still lay in the wreckage. “Before the troops came we found more than 10 people. I saved two students and one teacher but I didn’t get my own child out,” he said.

“I’m already 39 and he’s 44. We had only one child. Why should I live on now?” demanded his wife.

Like many parents here, their mood was turning from raw grief to fury as they waited for further news. Twenty-four hours after the quake hit, they were losing hope and only rage was left. They blamed everyone: soldiers for coming too late, the builders for cutting corners, officials for – they claimed – siphoning off cash.

UPDATE: NPR, which has been planning to broadcast a week of special reports from Chengdu, had two reporters on the scene when the earthquake struck. Melissa Block reported from a decimated school today. The Times also reports from the school in Juyuan and interviews survivors angered by the collapse of the school buildings. The Christian Science Monitor asks, “Why did so many schools collapse?“. See also the Los Angeles Times, “China’s building codes not always followed.”

At a press conference on Tuesday held by the State Council Information Office, a China Daily reporter asked, “We’ve seen reports from Xinhua and CCTV that several middle and high schools collapsed, burying a lot of students, yet we haven’t seen any reports of government buildings collapsing. In the future, will disaster prevention work include strengthening the safety measures for hospitals, schools and other such buildings?”

The spokesman for the Ministry of Civil Affairs responded, “Not only school buildings collapsed. Because children were buried in the schools, we care the most about these cases. I can tell you another piece of information: The building of the Bureau of Civil Affairs of Beichuan county also collapsed. People who were working inside also probably suffered injury and death. Not all government buildings are so solid.”

Despite the official answer, the China Daily’s reporter’s question still generated discussion among Chinese bloggers.

A New York Times report reveals that China is not the only country where schools are commonly vulnerable in earthquakes.

The following CCTV news clip is about rescue efforts for the collapsed main building of the Juyuan Middle School in Juyuan county. According to the China Daily, more than 1,000 students and teachers were having class in the school at the time of the earthquake.

May 13, 2008, 1:34 PM
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Categories: Politics, Society
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