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Lost, Orphaned Chinese Children Wait in Stadium


From the studios of NPR West, this is Day to Day. I'm Alex Chadwick.



And I'm Alex Cohen. Madeleine Brand is away. Coming up what the crisis in Myanmar means to one Burmese Buddhist monk.

CHADWICK: A week after the earthquake that devastated Southwest China, that nation paused today for three minutes of quiet reflection. This as news broke that more than 150 relief workers died in landslides over the weekend as they tried to fix roads in the quake region.

COHEN: Tens of thousands have perished in the quake. The Shinwan News Service is reporting nearly five million people have been left homeless. Reporter Jamila Trindle reports from one refugee camp at Jiuzhou Stadium in Mianyang where parents and children separated in the quake are now hoping for reunion.

JAMILA TRINDLE: A little boy blinks up at the strangers surrounding him. He's the youngest of a small group of survivors who walked for two days from their mountain village to this refugee camp. He arrived without parents or relatives. He's immediately swarmed by a group of adults. They begged the boy to eat, and ask him where his family is, but he stays silent, stunned. A young volunteer takes him by the hand.

Unidentified Volunteer: (Through a translator) See, we're all taking care of you.


TRINDLE: She begins to lead the new arrivals wide eyed and exhausted away from the crowds towards the registration tables. She tries to reassure both the anxious adults and the child.

Unidentified Volunteer: (Through a translator) He still has parents, but they are not here at the moment. He's just arrived. His parents, maybe they are taking care of something.

TRINDLE: The group heads towards the stadium, now surrounded by tens of thousands of refugees. They're in tents that stretch across the grass and down the road, they're packed in under the eaves, and stretched out on blankets. It's all remarkably well ordered, and basic needs are being met. They'll be sequestered inside the stadium with teachers, and students, and hundreds of other children who are waiting for their parents. Concerned people are wondering who will take care of these children in the days and weeks to come, especially if it turns out that their parents are among the thousands of dead. The states say they are coming up with plans to allow for adoption.

Unidentified Female: (Through a translator) If there are orphans, we will follow the China adoption law. They will be adopted through that procedure.

TRINDLE: State news agencies say thousands across China have expressed interest in adopting. Even at this camp, people like Juiya Bing (ph), who also is a disaster victim are lining up to register.

Ms. JUIYA BING (Earthquake Survivor): (Through a translator) We would share what little we have. I just want to do whatever we can to help.

Ms. TRINDLE: She says that's because her family is doing better than many.

Ms. BING: (Through a translator) We lost our house, we lost everything. But we can go out and find work because at least we still have our health, so we can support a family. At least we are safe.

TRINDLE: Safe. But like so many here at the stadium, Juiya is still desperately searching. She thinks her nephew was working in Beichuan, one of the most devastated areas.

Ms. BING: (Through a translator) If someone has news about Lui Gyi Gene (ph) tell him to contact his little sisters in Ahn Chang(ph).

TRINDLE: Unable to find her nephew, Juiya is distraught and looking for a way to be useful. She pleads with the camps adoption official. Maybe she can take care of a child who's searching for his parents just to give him the warmth of a family for now. In this camp, everyone is searching for someone, parents for their children and children for their parents. Among the tired little group from Beichuan, a 16-year-old girl and her twin sister can't find their mother and father.

Unidentified Girl: (Through a translator) My parents had migrated out to work, so maybe they've gone back home to look for us, but we've already left.

TRINDLE: A week after the quake everyone is still hoping that at last paths will cross, here in this makeshift city. For NPR News, I'm Jamila Trindle in Mianyang. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.