Saturday, May 17, 2008

News From China

My nephew and his wife live in Suzhou, over 700 miles from the epicenter of China's huge quake. Here's his report of the long-range effects of the unstable earth.

Aftershocks from a recent 7.8 earthquake rocked our office on the 19th floor like a boat out at sea! We had to race down the emergency staircase while the lights flickered on and off until finally shutting down completely. Emergency lights kicked in as the crowded staircase still rocked and people screamed in panic. I felt like we were in the Twin Towers during 9/11; racing down the 19 floors of staircases for our lives!  Each time we descended a floor, more screaming people pushed their way in; slowing headway to a standstill.  Everyone was screaming in Chinese: "Hurry, Hurry! We're all gonna get crushed!" 
After a 5-minute race down the emergency exit staircase, masses of people flooded the lobby and ran across the streets toward an expanse of green grass just outside of the buildings fallout range.  There is nothing quite so shocking as running behind others while their necks are strained backwards watching the building as if it were to fall when you haven't yet completely escaped. 
The epicenter was actually located in China's Sichuan (Szechuan) province in a city called Wen Chuan, 1200 km (appx.720 miles) away from our office in Suzhou. In this picture, an ancient pagoda in my wife's hometown (Anna May Deng from Langzhong) collapsed to the ground along with numerous apartment highrises that you can see along the river; behind my brother Dan and Anna.  Her family is okay; they were luckily all outside on ground level when it happened; although many poor families in the countryside had their brick houses collapse.  I attached pictures of what homes looked like two weeks ago when we last visited.
Aftershocks are still riveting through the province from eyewitness accounts via telephone and mobile phones.  Anna was on the phone 10 minutes ago, when her Grandma suddenly said; "Another one is hitting, I got to run!"  She also spoke to an Aunt who had just poured a cup of hot tea on the table when the first shock hit and bounced it through the air onto the ground. 
Both China's CCTV local news station and CNN have limited knowledge of the true extent of the earthquake.  Both have reported it as breaking news, but we have yet to see images from the epicenter, or the nearest metropolitan city; Chengdu.

-Mike Grigg

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