The Sichuan Quake
As we are coming up to the five year mark of one of the worst natural catastrophes in our time, I thought I would revisit my work from the 2008 earthquake that hit the Sichuan province in China.
I was visiting China with journalist Lisa Ioannou as we were working on a story about industrial pollution and it’s impact on newly born babies.
We were in the middle of checking in to a hotel many hundred kilometres away from the epicentre when the highrise began to sway. It only lasted for a few minutes and afterwards we were laughing with the locals in the street, relieved that it was over and there were no harm done.
Little did we know of the horror and incredible tragedies that were playing out simultaneously in the neighbouring region.
An estimated 68.000 lives were lost.
In the mountainous landscape, the damage done to the infrastructure is lethal in the days after the quake. Here a man gathers whatever gasoline he can from a collapsed petrol station
Massive camps housing thousands of families are erected by the Chinese military.
A group of relief workers are having a short rest. They have been digging out bodies non stop since the earthquake. Sometimes they find someone still alive, but as the hours passes and the days go by, hope diminishes.
Almost everybody in the worst hit areas insists on sleeping in the street even if their homes are still standing. People are afraid that there will be another earthquake and the many aftershocks confirm their suspicions.
Many schools collapsed during the quake while other buildings next to them survived. There’s a growing suspicion that the schools were build out of cheap and unstable materials to save money. Here, a group of parents are carrying a banner asking who is to blame for the death of their children.
The view of Beichuan city. Before the quake this was a thriving city with 20.000 inhabitants. Now it’s a graveyard for the 12.000 people that lost their lives here. Most of them are still buried under the rubble.
The premier of China, Wen Jiabao has become the face of the Chinese government during the catastrophe. “Grandpa” as he is called is here seen visiting a group of factory workers that survived the quake.
Tens of thousands have fled the mountains and are now living in makeshift tents in the cities where they are closer to emergency relief and medical attention.
A victim of the quake is being treated by medical personnel.
The Chinese army are flying in excavators to help dig channels to ease some of the pressure off a nearby dam that are threatening to flood local villages.
A young girl and her father have returned to the ruins of their home to see if there’s anything left to save. The mother seen in the wedding portrait is in hospital, wounded but alive.
Help is flooding in from all over the world and in all major cities across China people are queuing for hours to donate blood.