Deadly dis­as­ter

Ten peo­ple die in col­lapse of Wen­zhou res­i­den­tial build­ings

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By SHI XIAOFENG in Hangzhou shixf@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Seven­teen peo­ple were de­clared dead after four res­i­den­tial build­ings in Wen­zhou, Zhe­jiang prov­ince, col­lapsed on Mon­day morn­ing.

Nearly 800 res­cuers are rac­ing against the clock to search for miss­ing peo­ple buried un­der de­bris, with the help of ex­ca­va­tors, life-de­tec­tion equip­ment and dogs.

The dis­as­ter hap­pened around 4 am in Lucheng dis­trict. As of 8 pm, 23 peo­ple had been pulled from the rub­ble, but only six peo­ple, in­clud­ing a 6-year-old girl, sur­vived.

Guo Lin was one of the first wit­nesses. He had been distribut­ing leaflets and went to an in­ter­net bar to play on­line games overnight. About 3:40 am, he heard a loud sound and felt the room shake vi­o­lently.

“My first thought was that it was an earth­quake. So I stood up and tried to hide un­der the desk,” Guo said. “Then I heard a woman cry­ing loudly for help. I ran up to the third floor and opened the win­dow. The street was full of dust and I couldn’t see any­thing. So I di­aled the emer­gency num­ber 110.”

There were three more peo­ple in the bar who tried to go out to check the sit­u­a­tion. But the bar owner stopped them.

“He told us the street is full of rub­ble and we might be in dan­ger if we went out. So we stayed in the house un­til the po­lice came and knocked on our door,” Guo said.

Ac­cord­ing to the neigh­bors, the four col­lapsed build­ings were three to five sto­ries tall and were built by local res­i­dents in the 1970s. This area was put on the de­mo­li­tion list two or three years ago, but work was some­how halted half­way. Most res­i­dents had al­ready moved out, but some mi­grant work­ers were rent­ing rooms at 200 yuan ($32) per month.

“They lost their lives to take ad­van­tage of cheap rent. It is hor­ri­ble,” Guo said.

Xu Shiyao stood anx­iously out­side the cor­don. His 31-year-old younger brother was buried in the rub­ble and is still miss­ing.

Xu and his brother, Huang Jian­shua ng, were from neigh­bor­ing Yongjia county, about 30 km away. Huang worked for a local fac­tory and lived in the col­lapsed build­ing dur­ing the work­week.

“Usu­ally my brother will come home on the week­end and go back to the fac­tory on Mon­day morn­ing, but last week­end he did not come back and he did not tell us the rea­son,” Xu said.

“About 9 am I re­ceived a call from the fac­tory and they told me he did not show up at work this morn­ing. My whole fam­ily rushed here and we have waited here since 10 am. We don’t have any trace of him.”

Ac­cord­ing to the lat­est in­for­ma­tion on Lucheng dis­trict’s mi­cro blog page, in ad­di­tion to the col­lapsed build­ings five nearby di­lap­i­dated build­ings were badly dam­aged.

Res­cue teams were start­ing to pull down th­ese build­ings to avoid po­ten­tial dan­ger.

YU GENLING / FOR CHINA DAILY

Fire­fight­ers res­cue a 6-year-old girl from the rub­ble after four build­ings col­lapsed in Wen­zhou, Zhe­jiang prov­ince, on Mon­day.

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