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Pain will take a lifetime to heal for mudslide survivors
Writer: China Daily     Origin: www.chinadaily.com.cn    Time: 2010-08-25     Hit: 648     【Font:Small Big

Grid workers install electrical power infrastructure in Chengguan township of Zhouqu county, Gansu province, on Monday. [Xinhua]

Teenager Liu Luojie turned on the TV news earlier this month and learned that he had been orphaned overnight.

The 14-year-old was enjoying a break in Shenzhen, the southern Chinese city bordering Hong Kong, when his entire village in the northwestern Gansu province was leveled in the worst mudslide in decades.

He spent three days traveling by train and bus before he stood at the rubble of his home in the village of Yueyuan (meaning full moon), in Zhouqu county on Aug 11.

The two-story building was gone, and so were his parents, uncle, aunt and cousins.

With his bare hands, he tried to retrieve their bodies. But the hole he dug soon refilled with loose sand and stones.

His tears had stopped and he was numb with grief when rescuers took him to a tent.

He has not spoken since.

The teenager only shakes his head when asked where he wants to stay or what he will do in the future.

Its a fatal blow for him, says a neighbor who was close to the family.

Lius parents ran a fruit store and were well off by local standards. Liu, who was not keen on schoolwork, only finished primary school and spent most of his time in idle pursuits and dining out with friends.

He was one of 16 young people - aged from 12 months to 20 years - who lost their parents in the mudslide in Yueyuan village.

Of the 86 families in the village, only 12 remain intact after the massive rain-triggered mudslide of Aug 8.

At least 1,435 people died in Zhouqu county and 330 are still missing.

More than two weeks after the disaster, experts say counseling is urgently needed for survivors who are still haunted by the experience and mourning their losses.

For many, the pain will take a lifetime to heal, says Wang Wen, a psychiatrist from the First Hospital affiliated with Lanzhou University. They need to vent their grief and depression by crying or pouring out their feelings, so as to avoid further psychological problems.

A medical survey conducted in Zhouqu shortly after the disaster showed about 80 percent of the survivors suffered psychological problems.

The Ministry of Health says long-term intervention is essential and more counselors are required.

The ministry sent 18 counselors to Zhouqu shortly after the mudslide. They were joined by dozens of psychiatrists from hospitals in the provincial capital, Lanzhou, and the Peoples Liberation Army. The team, however, is still too small for a county with 134,700 people.

One of the counselors, Dr Yang Xiaoqin, who worked with survivors of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, says survivors should be encouraged to talk together, comfort each other, build a sense of security among themselves and look to the future.

Its easier for those in the same boat to overcome their problems together, says Yang, a psychiatrist with the provincial Peoples Hospital.

A helping hand and words of affection can often help them through the pain, he says.

Offering helping hand

While inadequate schooling and lack of skills are real problems for Liu, fellow villager He Kun has been offered a path for his future.

At 16, He lost nine family members, including both parents, in the disaster, which occurred while he was spending the summer with relatives in the countryside.

The tragedy has brought an opportunity to continue his education at the countys top high school as its principal has offered to admit him.

Before the mudslide destroyed his home, his father had been struggling to find him an opening at any school, as he had failed the high school admission test. My parents hoped I would enter college and secure a decent job, he says.

He says he will do his best at school and live up to their expectations.

As the school buildings were also destroyed in the mudslide, He and 1,200 other new students will spend the fall semester at a school in Lanzhou.

Moved by the teenagers story, a businesswoman from the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region has offered to finance his schooling and cover all his daily expenses.

Ill take him as my own son and do everything his parents would do for him, said Fu Yulian, who runs a supermarket in Xinjiangs Yili Prefecture.

Fu arrived at Zhouqu county on a truck fully loaded with food, water and other relief supplies from her own store after the mudslide. She found He after she heard his story from rescuers.

Facing up to disaster

Ill be strong - my parents will be watching me from heaven and they wont like to see me cry, says Xue Juxia, 14.

Xue, who lost 15 family members, has never cried in public.

As she grapples with grief, she helps volunteers carry and distribute relief supplies, or spends hours washing her clothes, imagining she is doing her parents laundry, a chore she had been doing for years.

Xue started school at least two years later than her peers, so when the fall semester begins this week, she will be in sixth grade at primary school.

A relative has helped her lease a room near her school. Probably Ill be lonely, but Im not afraid. School work and all the cooking and cleaning will keep me busy.

Two weeks after the mudslide, supplies are no longer a problem in Zhouqu, said Yang Jianguo, the civil affairs chief of Gannan prefecture.

Survivors had been eating only instant noodles, pickles and sausages. But now farmers from the outskirts have begun selling fruits and vegetables near the tent community.

 
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