Search for Victims Turns Up a Quake Survivor
Four days after a powerful earthquake struck China's Sichuan province, survivors are still being located, freed from rubble by rescue teams. At a site 50 miles from Chengdu, the Sichuan capital, a dramatic rescue operation took place when signs of life emerged from a flattened factory.
Relief teams have been performing the grim task of extricating corpses from debris in Sichuan — it is now estimated that as many as 50,000 people may have died in the quake. But there have been some rare moments of joy, as well.
At a fertilizer plant near Chengdu, a team looking for what may be 200 quake victims found a survivor: Liu Deyun, 50, who had been trapped on the bottom floor of the factory, his arm and leg pinned by rubble. Liu was able to speak, but it was a dangerous and delicate task to free him from underneath the tottering structure, which could tumble at any moment.
As soldiers and firemen worked, Liu's daughter Liu Yuanyuan, 23, and his wife watched intently, clasping each others' hands tightly. Liu Yuanyuan said this was the last thing they'd expected.
"We hadn't had any news about him. We thought he'd died," Liu said' "I think this is a miracle. I don't care what condition he's in, as long as he's alive."
They had arrived on the scene late last night and had talked to Liu through the night, trying to keep his spirits up. Liu Yuanyuan described her first words to her father.
"I called out 'Father,' and he said, 'I'm thirsty,' and he started crying," she said.
"Then he told us where he was, he said he couldn't move. I have a son who's 2 and a half who gets along well with my father. So I told my father that my son was at home waiting for him."
Liu does not work at the fertilizer factory; he was there to deliver coal, as he does every day.
Liu's leg was trapped underneath the rubble. The rescue team asked his daughter whether she would agree for the leg to be amputated if it were necessary to pull him out of the rubble; she agreed.
Not long after, the rescuers amputated Liu's leg and part of an arm in order to save him. He had been conscious and talking throughout the procedure, although he'd been given an anesthetic.
And then, to shouts of joy and a round of applause from onlookers, Mr Liu was hoisted by rescuers onto a makeshift stretcher made from a wooden door covered by a quilt and carried down to safety."
Army doctor Zhao Hongxing said he is confident Liu will survive his ordeal.
"In his current condition, his internal organs haven't received any serious damage," Zhao said. "This man has an extremely strong will to live. An ordinary person wouldn't be able to bear it for so long. We should respect him for this."
For Zhao, it has been a week of heartbreak and frustration. Arriving here the day after the earthquake, he had been unable to rescue those stuck under the rubble because of a lack of specialized equipment. That changed with the arrival of specialist firemen from Nanjing.
Zhao recalled the moment when Liu was pulled out of the building, moments after the amputation.
"When he came out he said, 'The army is great, and the doctors are great.'"
The success was a rare moment of jubilation for the army. It is also clearly being used as a public relations triumph. A very senior general — Wang Weishan, head of the 15th Army — was flown in to congratulate the troops in front of the cameras.
"Our army has a glorious tradition in relief work," Wang said, "because our army comes from the people and it serves the people."
The troops celebrated their moment of glory, which came during a week dominated by tragedy. But for Liu Deyun, celebrations may be premature. Recovering in hospital, he'll soon discover his entire family is homeless. Their house was flattened in the quake.
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