'How do we cope?' a man shouted as militiamen blocked the command centre

SCMP reporter Zhuang Pinghui on day two of the Sichuan earthquake

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 April, 2013, 5:24pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 April, 2013, 6:04pm

In part two of SCMP reporter Zhuang Pinghui's compelling account of the Sichuan earthquake, she tells of the day after the tremors struck and how shaken and injured villagers began a battle for survival.

Sunday, April 21

We started the second day at the Lushan county at 6am. By then the county was already awake. People were queueing for food to be dispatched by volunteers. We went to the county hospital where medical tents were stationed and it was there I saw Zheng Bing, a girl transferred during the night from the blocked Baoxing County.

Quiet and looking utterly helpless, she was carried by her father on his back. I asked her whether she wanted a snack but she just looked away. There was blood on her face, her head wrapped in thick bandage. Her left eye was purple with swelling, so much so that she was unable to open it. Her devastated father looked a wreck. Doctors had been forced to amputate his injured wife's arm and leg.

Having a a three-year-old daughter myself, I couldn't hold back the tears at the thought that the girl probably would never be held her mother's arms again.

In a nearby tent a young mother looked content and happy watching her three-day-old son being bottle fed. He was a big eater, the nurse said. A man approached the mother and put down 500 yuan saying: "I left in a hurry and this is just an expressing of my heart" and left. Everything happened in seconds.

We hitchhiked along the Longmen township on motorcycles and as we drove further saw fewer tents. Villagers who were taking shelter in makeshift huts were angry with the little attention they were receiving from the government.

"No water, no food and no attention," they held the banner along the road, trying to be noticed by the passing cars.

The township centre which used to be the command centre was blocked by militiamen in an effort to prevent angry villagers from intruding and demanding for food.

"We have pregnant women and children! All we got was a bottle of water and one instant noodle. How do we cope?" a man shouted.

In the township centre a frustrated-looking man, who was called "party secretary Yang" said he would have dispatched them if he had any. He said he had no idea when they would come.