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A quake survivor's tale

By Erik Nilsson and Huang Zhiling  (China Daily)

09:39, May 15, 2013

Bian Gangfen was saved from the debris 125 hours after the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake. [Photo by Huo Yan / China Daily]

Bian Gangfen's family had started to give up hope she would be found alive after the devastating 2008 Wenchuan earthquake. But Bian, trapped under mountains of debris, knew she would live to see her loved ones again.

Bian Gangfen's family had already started to mourn her death when she was miraculously raised from the rubble - 125 hours after the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake.

After waiting and praying for days, some of her loved ones had given up hope.

"They had bought paper funerary money, candles and incense and had burned them," Bian says. "But my sister refused. She said I must still be alive. She pointed out that thousands of people were still waiting for loved ones to return."

Bian not only knew she was alive, but that she would survive and escape the debris.

"I couldn't move at all," she recalls. "I had no food or water. There was a puddle of rainwater, but I was afraid to drink it because I had to urinate in it. But I thought, 'I must survive'. So I drank it."

She spent five days and nights pinned under the rubble of what had been a second-floor teahouse in a five-story building in Yinghua township in Shifang, Sichuan province.

"I had to live for my child. I was too young to go. I knew rescuers would save me because I had seen them working in a blizzard on the TV news," Bian recalls.

Rather than wait for help, however, she tried to save herself. "I tried to dig a hole with my hands," she says. "My fingers swelled. I didn't get anywhere."

Bian passed the time chatting with a young man she knew who was also trapped beneath the debris. The man, who ate a pack of cigarettes to stave off hunger, was rescued after 106 hours.

"That gave me new hope," Bian says. "In the debris, I told him I'd introduce him to a woman. So he had to make it out of the rubble."

The two have stayed in touch, but the man is yet to find Miss Right. He became a soldier, motivated by his gratitude to those who rescued him.

"We would have both died without each other," Bian says.

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