Feeling the pain together
After the bad news that Tuesday night’s 7.0-magnitude earthquake had killed at least 19 people and injured nearly 250 near Sichuan’s popular tourist destination Jiuzhaigou National Park, there was some good news. It was confirmed that the five Hong Kong tourists, who were earlier reported missing following the earthquake, had been accounted for as of Wednesday afternoon. It is comforting to know that all Hong Kong tourists stranded in the quake-struck region are safe and unharmed.
But that doesn’t stop Hong Kong people — known for their long tradition of compassion and support — feeling sad about those who died or suffered during this latest natural catastrophe. This is especially significant because it struck Sichuan. This is an area with which Hong Kong people have a special bond after Wenchuan suffered an 8.0-magnitude earthquake in May 2008.
In the wake of the Wenchuan earthquake, Hong Kong committed HK$10 billion to support reconstruction in that region — HK$9 billion from the government and HK$1 billion from the Jockey Club and public donations. More than 2,000 Hong Kong people went to the stricken area to help with disaster relief and reconstruction work. And more than 150 reconstruction projects sponsored by Hong Kong donations have been launched and successfully completed over the past several years, with the last batch of projects being completed only in May last year when then chief secretary for administration Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor inspected the projects with a Hong Kong delegation.
There is not much people can do to prevent natural disasters, particularly severe ones such as strong earthquakes and devastating floods. But swift and coordinated rescue efforts do make a difference in coping with the aftermath by saving more lives and minimizing property losses. President Xi Jinping has called for quick action from the relevant government departments in response to the disaster.
There is no doubt that the mainland has more than enough capability to handle the relief and reconstruction operations alone. But Chief Executive Carrie Lam already told the media in Beijing that Hong Kong would definitely participate in the reconstruction work again if given the chance — because “blood is thicker than water”. Indeed, Hong Kong people have always been ready to help their mainland compatriots whenever a natural disaster has struck. This is because they feel their pain. This has been true with the catastrophic Eastern China flood of 1991, the Wenchuan earthquake of 2008 and many other natural disasters over the years.