A mix of optimism and anxiety after Sichuan earthquake

Publicado: 24 abril 2013 15:04 CET

By Kevin Xia in Lushan

Almost 200 people died after the earthquake in Sichuan, but the Red Cross was on the scene immediately to provide shelter and psychosocial support to those affected.

As Ling Wenjing, 66, recounts what happened when Saturday’s powerful earthquake shook this small town tucked into the mountains, he cradles his granddaughter in his arms.

“I was sitting on the bed when the earthquake happened,” he says. “The wall started cracking and the roof was about to fall down. My first thought was to get my granddaughter out, as she was sleeping in another room. She was too scared to move, so I carried her out quickly.”

Home for Mr Ling and his family, including seven-year-old Xinyan, is now a Red Cross tent, as they join over 230,000 people displaced by this second earthquake to strike the southwestern province in the space of five years.

Nearly 200 people died and more than 12,000 were injured in the earthquake, which struck a remote, mountainous region, about 140 kilometers from the provincial capital, Chengdu.

The Red Cross Society of China has already dispatched thousands of tents, quilts, jackets, and other food and non-food items to the disaster area and have also started providing psychosocial support.

“For the next few days we will focus on getting support to survivors but at the same time we will also assess the damage and decide how to help people recover in the long-term,” says Ding Dilu, Executive Vice President of Red Cross Sichuan Branch.

He says the needs for reconstruction will be huge as many of houses have been damaged beyond repair. “Recovering people’s livelihoods will also be a big concern especially for those rural community members who work nearby as migrant workers.”

This is what is preying on Mr. Ling’s mind too. He has six children, born before China’s strict birth control policy took effect.

All are now migrant workers and they face a dilemma which is likely to be widespread and and familiar after the 2008 earthquake, in which more than 80,000 people died.

“My sons and daughters will have to come home to rebuild their houses, but how would they make money if they come home? I am sad and worried but life needs to move on,” he says. “We Sichuan people are always optimistic. We will survive this earthquake as we did in 2008.”

The Red Cross Society of China has said it plans to focus particular attention on the needs of vulnerable children and elderly in this region, where migration of working-age adults to work has become a way of life.