It’s truly unbearable to watch or read the news recently.

Half of the daily newspapers covers the 7.9-magnitude earthquake which struck China’s Sichuan on 12th May 2008 (Monday) and the TV news always starts off with latest updates of the deathly situation. It’s awfully tough to read the newspapers or watch the news because I’ve to keep fighting back the tears which subconsciously well up in my eyes or keep dabbing at my wet eyes. I feel mildly stupid crying at the news but I just can’t help it. And I still keep my eyes glued onto the TV or newspapers as I will like to keep myself updated with one of the century’s worst disasters after the 2004 tsunamis.  

How is it possible not to weep upon seeing a photograph of rescuers uncovering many young children, aged no more than ten, buried alive and stacked on top of one another among the rubbles.

How is it possible not to feel a wrench in one’s heart to know that the innocent lives of more than 900 teenagers and teachers were taken as their school building collapsed and killed them, with mostly being their parents’ only child because of the country’s famous one-child policy.

How is it possible to feel nothing to see the parents crying and screaming in grief and despair around what was left of the school and where the bodies of their beloved children rest somewhere waiting to be recovered.  

Yesterday the rescuers finally managed to pull out a 19-year-old girl after spending many hours trying to figure out how to save the poor thing. It was her 20th birthday yesterday. All the rescuers started singing her a birthday song as they carried her in a stretcher and someone was wiping her face clean. She managed a small smile despite her injuries and I nearly cried my eyes out. No doubt all these successful rescues are boosting the morales of everyone involved in the rescue efforts and this is really what they need, especially when many of them selflessly devote their time to the rescue works almost immediately after the ravaging quake and before they can even check if their own families are safe. Their self-sacrificing spirit definitely deserves everyone else’s upmost respect.

I think on Monday, the very day when China was hit by the quake, a pregnant nurse helping out with the victims delivered her baby on the spot in a temporary tent held up by just some blankets. Fortunately her labour was smooth and her healthy new baby boy brought new-found hope to the many who were present. Hours later, the mother had left her newborn to the father and continued with her work. Unbelievable but absolutely admirable.

When I saw on TV that the Chinese Prime Minister Mr Wen Jiabao took the hand of one of the many poor children newly made orphans by the cruel quake and she started sobbing, I was truly touched when he told her, in a shaking voice, trying hard not to cry himself, not to cry and that the country and government will take care of her in the future. I think Mr Wen Jiabao has done an excellent job so far. Merely hours after the quake destroyed much of the Sichuan province and shook neighbouring areas, he made his first appearance at a quake site lending comfort and support to the survivors and even using amplifiers to shout words of assurance to the rubbles and all the possible victims who are still trapped in within waiting for rescue. He has also asserted many times to the army and the rescue teams that they must do all they can to save as many as possible, as quickly as possible.

I know that the survivors of areas nearer to the epicentre, areas that have been so severely affected that they were currently totally inaccessible to rescue teams, had expressed immense unsatisfaction and desperation that rescue efforts had yet to reach their people. They were unpleased that their Prime Minister only seemed to be concerned with the city areas. The truth is of course that no one from outside could enter when the bridges were damaged and roads destroyed and covered with the remnants of the rock falls and mud slides. Currently the rescuers have managed to make their way into these most shaken areas and everywhere that Mr Wen Jiabao makes an appearance, I believe that he brings hope to the people.

The Chinese government may have been normally portrayed as a remote and autocratic regime governing the world’s most populous country, especially after the recent Tibetian suppression, but Mr Wen Jiabao’s repeated appearance at the quake sites and on television, reassuring the survivors, shows a humane and caring side of the government and says that Beijing is on the people’s side. The efficiency with which the rulers have responded to the massive destruction has also been impressive. The 50,000 troops dispatched to Wenchuan, the earthquake’s epicentre, have made an immediate impact in helping to rescue trapped survivors and distributing vital food and medical supplies. The operation has been well-managed, with airports closed to civilian traffic so as not to impede relief flights. Television bulletins broadcast appeals for blood donations, and priority has been given to restoring electricity and clearing roads.

Of course many questions have popped up ever since the first tremors were felt in Sichuan. Why wasn’t the earthquake predicted by the seismologists beforehand and a prior evacuation warning issued to the people? Considering that the Chinese actually invented the seismoscope way back during the Han Dynasty, it’s ironic. Although when we take into consideration the financial factor, we will understand why not. Thousands and thousands of toads migrated, risked getting crushed by the people and vehicles and literally crossed the street like the chicken. Animals in the zoo were reported to be highly disturbed for no apparent reason just before the quake. Naturally no one thought of it as an omen. It’s always until you look back after the incident and you realise that it was perhaps a sign. Why did so many buildings collapse? This is an earthquake-prone zone. Why are the structures of the buildings so sub-standard? If you would recall the 921 earthquake that devastated Taiwan in 1999, many buildings collapsed and subsequently upon inspection found to be built from unqualified materials like aluminium tins. Government corrupted, contractors corrupted, people died.

I believe most of the Chinese have plenty of burning questions to ask their government to whom they pay taxes, but everyone does know that currently, the most important and urgent matter will be to rescue all the trapped victims and to ensure that the survivors at least have food and water. No doubt it will probably take years for the affected areas and their people to recover, if ever, fully, but should China put her mind into doing this, it would definitely be possible.

But honestly, right after China is tormented by this deadly earthquake, everyone around the globe forgot how they were condemning China for its brutal suppression of the Tibetan people, attempting to disrupt the worldwide procession of the Olympic torch and threatening to boycott the approaching Olympics just a while ago. Instead China starts to be showered with praise for its compassionate and well-disciplined response to the catastrophe in Sichuan. People have set aside all the fury generated by the manhandling of protesters as it is being replaced by shock at the heart-wrenching images of grief-stricken survivors and the mangled bodies of their family members.

Perhaps this shows that beneath all that greenhouse gases-releasing, war-generating, forest-destructing nature of Man, we Homo Sapiens do have a compassionate and empathetic side.

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On a sidenote, my stupid colleague JPS just came back from her overseas trip and because she started bragging about her trip to anyone who would listen (basically just the new girl haha) the moment she was back, I just realised that she went to CHINA, not Australia!

CHINA! EARTHQUAKE! KILLED OVER TWENTY THOUSAND PEOPLE! AND AN EVIL-HEARTED PERSON LIKE HER MANAGED TO COME BACK IN ONE PIECE??!!

LOL. Life’s weird.

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