Pain never fades for parents who lost children in collapsed schools

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 May, 2011, 12:00am


Deng Xiu named her second son Xiaoping, which sounds like the word for 'safety', in the hope that he will be shielded from danger.

The brother he never met died three years ago, aged 17, when Beichuan Middle School collapsed after Sichuan was hit by a magnitude 8 earthquake.

He was a first-year high school student at the school, where more than 1,300 students and teachers were killed.

Deng is one of more than 700 women in Beichuan who have given birth after losing their only child in the quake.

The mainland authorities hoped those who lost their only child would have another to defuse their anger after so many schools collapsed on May 12, 2008, while nearby buildings remained standing.

Parents tried to protest to the city, provincial and even the Beijing authorities to demand an investigation into why this happened, but they were always turned away.

The official line has been that the force of the quake, rather than poor construction, led to the collapse of the schools. Deng, 40, said: 'I used to think about seeking justice and having someone accountable, but not any more. There was no hope of achieving much.'

Sun Hongxiu, 42, married Zhu Huayin, 40, six months after the quake. Both had lost their spouses and Zhu also lost his son, eight, and daughter, 16, in school collapses.

'I went to the schools many times but nothing came out of it,' he said. 'Eventually I accepted compensation of 30,000 yuan (HK$35,879) and gave up.'

They now have a daughter, Zhu Lingling, who is 18 months old.

But hundreds of other couples tried to have children and failed. Some women suffered miscarriages, which quake survivors have blamed high levels of formaldehyde in their prefabricated emergency housing.

Wang Yongxing, deputy director of Beichuan's health bureau, said fertility experts blamed poor living conditions and intense pressure for the high miscarriage rate.

But he said the situation improved after women moved out of temporary shelters.

Wang said the county had shifted its family planning focus to helping those women get pregnant again.

But some are struggling to put the past behind them. Xiong Yonghao's 11-year-old daughter Xiong Xin was killed when the Fuxin No 2 Primary School collapsed in Mianzhu .

He was among a group of parents who held memorials in the debris.

He visited Beijing to file a complaint and demand an investigation into the school buildings to find someone who was accountable, but received no response.

He said: 'We got no feedback. The letter was like a stone lost in the sea.'

He also contacted lawyers in Beijing, but no lawyer would take his case. 'It's never about money. We don't want compensation. We want justice,' Xiong said.