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Missionary recounts aftermath in Chengdu

Survivors of an earthquake that struck the Sichuan Province of China on May 12 are afraid to return to their homes in Chengdu due to continuing aftershocks.
A UMNS photo by Yue Yaomeng.

May 15, 2008 | CHENGDU, China (UMNS)

Aftershocks of the May 12 earthquake in China continue to make people there uneasy, according to a United Methodist missionary living in Chengdu.

Connie Wieck, a missionary with the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, has recounted a few of her experiences on her blog at http://chinawieck.spaces.live.com. Wieck, who teaches English in China through the Amity Foundation, is on sabbatical doing language study in Chengdu.

Connie Wieck

On May 14, the aftershocks brought people back to the streets. Wieck, who lives in an off-campus apartment across from the West Gate of Sichuan University, and her dog, Little Flower, resumed their normal walking route around the campus. An earthquake information center had been erected at the head administration building.

“Throughout the campus, students had set up their bedding outside, either on the grass or under classroom building overpasses that would protect them from the sun and rain,” she wrote. “Well-tended lawns that once were forbidden territory to students now became speckled with squatters. Hundreds of makeshift bedsheet tents, created by ropes attached to trees, were found in the woodsy areas.

“Around the sports stadium, huge plastic canvas sheets had been draped over outdoor exercise equipment, providing quite a cozy corner for the 100 or so students who managed to claim that space. The sports field had also been opened. I calculated 400 or more crashed on the asphalt.”

Just outside the campus, university students had set up a booth and were accepting donations for the earthquake victims. Near the gate into her apartment compound, a high school student was collecting clothes for survivors and already had four plastic bags full.

Wieck happened to be at home when the earthquake hit, forcing her to leave her first-floor apartment with her dog and Little Ghost, an abandoned kitten she had rescued a month earlier.

Others there in the early afternoon – the elderly, young mothers or those in private business with flexible working hours – gathered on the grounds of her apartment complex. “Everyone has a cell phone in China, so many were busily text-messaging friends and family members or calling to make sure they were safe,” she wrote. “The atmosphere quickly lifted from one of fright to one of a pleasant outing together with friends and family.”

It wasn’t until she returned to her apartment that evening that Wieck discovered, by surfing the Internet and watching local television stations, the magnitude of the earthquake. The quake registered 7.9 on the Richter scale, and the death toll could reach 50,000, according to China’s state-run Xinhua news agency.

While about 60 of the complex’s residents chose to spend the night outside, some spent “a restless sleep in our own beds,” Wieck wrote. “Every quiver of the building had us wondering if it would suddenly become as strong as the first.”

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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