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Birthday girl given gift of life
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10:30, May 17, 2008

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· 7.8 Richter scale earthquake hits SW China
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Fifty-six hours after being buried in debris, 20-year-old Jia Zhengjiao came out of her coma, slowly opening her eyes to the sight of more than 160 Chinese Air Force soldiers singing Happy Birthday to her.

Recounting the arduous struggle to rescue his younger sister and only living family member to Chengdu Evening News yesterday, Jia Zhengyuan couldn't hold back his tears.

Immediately after the quake, Zhengyuan rushed from their hometown Pengzhou, Sichuan province, to the severely devastated Dujiangyan, where his sister was working. He discovered her buried under rubble, calling for help.

After failing to rescue Zhengjiao on his own, the brother spent a sleepless night in front of the ruins until a group of Air Force soldiers passed by, led by the political commissar of China's Air Force, Deng Changyou.

"I heard the general shouting at my sister: 'Kid, hold on! You'll be OK! Could you believe in me?'" Zhengyuan recalled.

Jia was pinned beneath so much tangled, heavy debris the Air Force ended up dispatching 160 soldiers and two experts to the site.

After 36 hours of rescue work, the young woman was finally pulled from the rubble, clad in bloodstained clothes. But she had fallen into a coma and couldn't hear the anxious calls of her brother and the soldiers.

"Yesterday was Jiaojiao's birthday. I had planned a celebration for her," Zhengyuan sobbed.

Nobody was quite sure who broke the silence by singing Happy Birthday, but before long, all of the onsite soldiers joined the chorus.

"They all crossed their arms over their chests, and their eyes filled with tears," Zhengyuan said.

Miraculously, Zhenjiao regained consciousness mid-song.

The young woman is now recuperating in an intensive care unit of Chengdu's Huaxi Hospital.

Zhengjiao was among 133 quake victims rescued by the more than 27,000 soldiers the Air Force dispatched to the disaster's frontlines as of 8 am Friday.

Commander of the Air Force Xu Qiliang has ordered a second round of large-scale airdrop operations to rescue quake victims, while Deng Changyou, the political commissar who helped save Zhengjiao, is commanding the operation at the frontlines, Air Force public affairs official Xu Huidong said.

"At the critical moment, our troops rushed to where they were needed most," Xu said. "To ensure relief workers and materials are delivered swiftly and successfully, key Air Force airports are operating 24 hours a day."

By 8 pm Friday, the Air Force had rescued 268 people. Its aircraft had made 436 flights, delivered 11,781 personnel and ferried 608.8 tons of supplies and equipment.

During the relief work, the Air Force set new records for the number of simultaneously mobilized aircraft, flight intensity and the number of flight hours in a day.

Xu said most pilots undertook nine takeoffs and landings, and flew non-stop 15 to 16 hours a day - twice the flight intensity of a usual mission.

"The eyes of the crew are red, because they have worked non-stop for 24 hours," a reporter at Sichuan's Taipingsi Airport said.

Source:China Daily

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