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Feature: Broken dreams at landslide-hit Tibetan mine


20:04, April 01, 2013

LHASA, April 1 (Xinhua) -- Though it might take years of hard work in a Tibetan mine for Zhao Linjiang to realize his dream of lifting his family out of poverty, it took just minutes for the dream to crumble.

Last week, Zhao left his drilling post at the Jiama Copper Polymetallic Mine to purchase tents in Lhasa, the regional capital of Tibet.

On Friday, he received a confusing call from his boss, who asked him to return immediately. On his way back to work, Zhao tried to call his relatives who also worked at the mine, but nobody answered.

When he got back to the mine, he found that it was no longer there. Instead, there was a mile-long pile of rocks in the place of the workers' camp, and 83 workers, including his 23-year-old brother Zhao Malin and six other relatives, were nowhere to be found.

"It was as if the world had just collapsed," Zhao said.

Dumbfounded, Zhao's first reaction was to reach for his mobile phone and call his family back home in mountainous Guizhou Province. When his sister-in-law answered, he found himself overcome with grief.

"I couldn't tell her, I just kept crying."

Zhao was the only miner to escape the landslide that hit the polymetal mine in Maizhokunggar County near Lhasa at about 6 a.m. Friday, burying 83 workers who were presumably sleeping.

As of 4 p.m. Monday, 36 bodies had been retrieved from the site. More than 4,000 rescuers are still searching for the 47 missing miners, though their odds of survival are slim.

Like Zhao, the families of other miners were hit hard by the news.

Zhao said his phone rings about 40 to 50 times a day, mostly calls from the families of his co-worker relatives, who had once dreamt about bringing wealth to their families in the impoverished villages of Guizhou's Xishui County.

Though life could be tough on the 4,600-meter-high plateau, the workers earned 8,000 yuan (1,288 U.S. dollars) to 9,000 yuan a month, roughly half the average annual income of people in their hometown, a victim's family member from Guizhou told Xinhua.

Despite the odds, Zhao has been anxiously awaiting news about his brother.

"When I have meals, I think of him. When I lie in bed, I think of him," he said. "It's so warm here, but my brother is so cold up there on the mountain."

"I can't stop wondering whether he enjoyed the snacks I mailed him the day before the landslide. I don't know how my sister-in-law will go on with her life, she used to call every day to tell him, 'I love you,'"

Zhao hopes to find out the cause of the disaster and accompany his brother back home, where he can reunite with his family and "rest in peace."

The tragedy has put an end to Zhao's dreams of being a migrant worker far from home.

"Now, I am the only son in my family. All I want now is to return home and be with my family," he said.

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