Moving Stories of China's Earthquake Survivors

May 16, 2008 12:00 am Last Updated: May 16, 2008 12:00 am

As of May 15, the China State Council Earthquake Relief Headquarters reported that the quake in Sichuan Province took 19,509 lives. The death toll is predicted to reach as high as 50,000.

As officials continue to asses the damage wrought by this calamity, moving stories of quake survivors have been pouring in from Wenchuan, the city nearest to the quake's epicenter.

Pregnant Woman Survives After Fifty Hours Trapped in Rubble

A decade-old apartment building in Du Jiangyan City collapsed when the earthquake hit. Zhang Xiaoyan—who is 8 months pregnant—and her mother lived on the sixth floor.

They were trapped in the rubble of the building for more than 50 hours until they were saved by rescue workers on May 14. Relatives begged the exhausted rescue workers to find the three remaining family members from the rubble.

One rescuer, carrying only a ladder, told the family he would need to get a police dog to help dig out the rest of the people still trapped in the wreckage. Short of resources and manpower, China's disaster response team still struggle to find survivors in the rubble left behind from this devastating quake.

This eleven-year-old girl was rescued after having been trapped for four days. (Liu Jin/AFP/Getty Images)
This eleven-year-old girl was rescued after having been trapped for four days. (Liu Jin/AFP/Getty Images)

Trapped for Four Days, Eleven-year-old Girl Is Saved

Mainland Chinese media reported that at least 400 children were buried when the Yinxiu primary school building collapsed during the earthquake.

As the children's bodies were pulled from the rubble one by one, family members would rush to check if it was their child. At 10:40a.m. on May 15, 63 hours after the quake struck, 4th grader Zhang Chunmei was found under a pile of debris.

According to teacher Tang Yunzhong, the girl was located three days before. Tang stayed nearby and continued to talk to Chunmei, providing food and water through a gap in the debris.

Three kids died in the rubble near Chunmei and the bodies had begun to smell. The teacher encouraged Chunmei to hang on and promised her that she would soon be rescued.

Doctors who examined Chunmei say her leg may have to be amputated, but she will certainly survive the ordeal. She has been sent to Chengdu for treatment.

Teacher Blocks Floor Slab with Body, Saving Four Students

Middle school teacher Tan Qiuqian from Hanwang Town in Deyang City sacrificed himself for four students. “He was found with his arms spread over a desk where four students were found underneath,” said a rescue worker. “Tan was dead but the children were still alive!” The back of Tan's brain was smashed by the floor slab.

Also in Deyang City's Shifanghongbai Town Central School, a young teacher named Tang Hong could have easily escaped from the building because he was teaching on the ground floor. Yet, when rescuers found his body, he holding one of his students in his arms while sheltering several others with his body.

Tang died in rubble, but the students he protected all survived. Tang was just over twenty years old with a nearly seven-month-old baby.