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Private sorrows as China mourns earthquake dead

(Shanghai Daily)

08:04, April 28, 2013

Tears run down the face of a student at Lushan Middle School in Sichuan Province yesterday morning, at a public mourning for the people who died in a 7.0-magnitude earthquake a week ago.

Yesterday morning, sirens sounded in Wuxing Village, in Sichuan Province's Lushan County, their haunting wail mourning villager Zhou Yonghong, her baby son, and the other victims of last Saturday's 7.0-magnitude earthquake.

But Zhou's grief-stricken family were preoccupied, searching for her possessions among the collapsed ruins where the body of the 22-year-old was found, clutching her lifeless five-month-old son, Liu Yuze.

Mother and son have been buried together on a mountain overlooking the village.

On the tombstone were smoky traces of a money burning ceremony, a traditional Chinese way to wish the deceased wealth.

The family, so recently bathed in the happiness a baby brings, now taste only bitterness and sorrow.

"Everyone tells me to be strong, but how can I?" said Liu Songjing, 49, Zhou's father-in-law.

Around him, and across the province, was public mourning for the Lushan earthquake victims at 8:02am, the exact time the quake struck last week.

This began with vehicles sounding their horns and sirens at 8:02am, followed by a three -minute silent tribute.

The quake has claimed nearly 200 lives and destroyed 126,000 homes, according to official figures.

Pitiful sight

Before the ruins of Liu's house was the pitiful sight of three bags of his daughter-in-law and grandson's clothes. These would be burned.

Nearby, Zhou's husband, Liu Ya, a widower at 23, sifted silently through the debris, his face reddened from days of searching under the scorching sun.

Both Liu Ya and Liu Songjing were away from home when the earthquake struck.

The young husband was far away in Lhasa, capital of Tibet Autonomous Region, while his father was on his tricycle collecting goods in the county.

After hours on a plane and then paying more than 1,000 yuan (US$162) to persuade a private driver to take him home, Liu Ya finally saw the cold bodies of his wife and son in the county hospital.

Liu Songjing is bitter that someone made profit out of his son's desperate dash home.

"Someone made money out of others' misfortune," Liu Songjing said, grief giving way to anger.

Liu Songjing also says that when he rushed back to the village and began frantically digging to reach his daughter-in-law, he asked three village committee officials to help him and other villagers.

"But they just stood there and didn't even reach out a hand," claimed the grandfather.

Now the family are living on relief aid rice, their store of salted pork and 10 yuan per person each day delivered by the government.

They spend most of their time with their granddaughter Liu Yiyi, the first child of Liu Ya and Zhou Yonghong's marriage.

"Now Yiyi is my all," said her devastated father.

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