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Wenchuan experience crucial

By HU YONGQI  (China Daily)

09:16, April 26, 2013

Soldiers from the Chengdu Military Command Area load a bag of rice onto a helicopter heading to quake-hit areas in Lushan, Sichuan province, on Wednesday. GUO LILIANG / FOR CHINA DAILY

I didn't know how to react then; Now I do, says soldier

Collapsed houses and broken roads, devastated by Saturday's magnitude-7 earthquake in Lushan, Sichuan province, are all too familiar to soldier Zhu Yunping.

He witnessed even worse damage five years ago in areas affected by the Wenchuan earthquake, which killed more than 69,000 people.

Many soldiers helping with rescue efforts in Lushan have memories similar to Zhu's when it comes to earthquake rescue.

Lang Anwu, chief of staff in a search-and-rescue regiment in the Chengdu Military Command Area, said, "The trucks in my regiment, which are equipped with rescue equipment, started heading for Longmen township 14 minutes after the quake on Saturday."

The troops arrived at Lushan county four hours later and reached Longmen after an arduous 30-minute trek.

As the first soldiers to reach the epicenter, they stopped to rescue the injured and helped retrieve food and beds from debris on the way to Longmen.

Zhu, a 30-year-old sergeant in the regiment, said his experience in searching for survivors in the Wenchuan quake in 2008 prepared him for the mission in Longmen.

A week after the Wenchuan disaster, Zhu and four other soldiers were assigned to search for a helicopter that went down in a valley in Lixian, a county ravaged by the quake. That search is etched in his mind, and now he is capable of tackling many challenges posed by earthquakes.

Five years ago, with just two bottles of water and an egg pie, the team started its hazardous journey. On the way to the highest mountaintop, which they thought was the best point to locate the wrecked helicopter, they experienced dozens of landslides and aftershocks.

"One aftershock rocked the hill, and I fell into a hole. Fortunately, my teammate held on to me," Zhu said. "One slip would have been fatal. At that time, I didn't know how to react. But now I am fully aware of the consequences and solutions."

Caution is always the best way to steer clear of danger, Zhu said, especially in earthquake zones. "People have to pay attention to all their surroundings to avoid dangers."

In situations where it is hard to gain access to buildings that have been destroyed, Zhu reminds his teammates to stay calm and spot an opening during aftershocks, while making sure it is safe to enter.

Calluses on his palms bear testimony to the work put in by the 11-year veteran.

In a muddy field 500 meters from the Longmen township government headquarters, the regiment struck camp. In a makeshift tent, using wooden plates as the floor and with one quilt for each soldier, Zhu instructed his 15 teammates on how to prevent potential danger to local residents' property from the debris. "Don't approach any falling walls and keep a close eye on the interior of damaged houses when moving property out," he said.

On Tuesday, Zhu and his team saved a Tibetan mastiff from a house where a wall collapsed, leaving the dog in a confined space, with a wooden board on its head proving to be the animal's last line of defense.

His experience five years ago in Lixian told him the dog could only be saved by removing debris on its left and right sides.

"The animal would have been killed if we moved the board from above," he said.

Among priorities for the soldiers, saving rice and other materials are regarded as the most important for local residents.

Ji Xu, political instructor to Zhu's regiment, said, "No matter what happens, the soldiers must go to the front line and shoulder the responsibilities to protect people's lives and property."

Touching moments:

Daily life of quake victims in Sichuan

High school students prepare for exam in tent

Rescuers struggling to reach every household

Soldiers bring hope to earthquake-hit region

First night after deadly earthquake

Rescuers work hard at quake-hit area in Sichuan

>>>Quake-hit China grows in pain

The principle of sparing no efforts to save lives cannot be more stressed. No minute or even second should be delayed during the "golden rescue period" in the first 72 hours after the quake.

>>>Pilot cancels wedding to participate in quake relief

When the 7.0-magnitude quake happened, Zhang Shangnian, a pilot from an aviation brigade of Chengdu Military Region, was about to hold his wedding.

>>>Nurse returns to work after losing mother

Just likes other medical staff, she was busy with rescuing people injured in the earthquake in SW China, but no one knew her mother just died in the quake.

>>>Wedding ceremony without bridegroom held on schedule

Zhuo Jia, the bridegroom, is a solider of the Chengdu Military Region; he had to leave his beautiful bride behind to participate in earthquake relief.

>>>An injured girl's smile moves many

"Your smile makes the entire world beautiful,” a photo of a smiling girl with bandage on her head has moved so many Chinese netizens.

>>>Teenager saves mom with his bare hands

The mother moves away a precast slab weighing over 50 kilograms alone to save her son in the earthquake. She said she did not know where her strength came from.

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