Wangjia villager recalls last day of brother who died in Sichuan quake

Grieving villager, whose brother died under falling debris when a kiln collapsed, explains why swift burials are a necessity in quake zone

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 April, 2013, 4:12am

Grieving relatives had no time to prepare mourning clothes or a proper burial service for 40-year-old quake victim Duan Jihong.

The best Duan Jigui could do was wash his brother's body after retrieving it from the debris of a collapsed kiln and dress it in new clothes before burying him in a donated coffin.

"We have no other way," Duan Jigui, 49, said. "The body attracted insects."

Villagers from Wangjia village in Longmen township carried the coffin up the mountain in morning drizzle for burial yesterday. Duan Jihong's son burned paper money while villagers watched silently.

Duan Jihong had lived with his son in the village for five years and worked at the kiln with his brother. They were there when the quake struck on Saturday morning, Duan Jihong inside the kiln and his brother outside.

"We worked overtime that morning from 5am to 8am," Duan Jigui said. "The regular shift starts at 8am and I asked whether he would like to have some noodles with me.

"He said he was in no hurry and would like to continue to work, so I ate the noodles outside because it was so hot in the kiln."

He then felt the ground shaking and started to run. His brother started to run too but the kiln's roof collapsed and blocked the door.

Duan Jigui watched his brother try to crawl out over the bricks at the door but the rest of the roof collapsed. It was the last time he saw his brother alive. He called every phone number he could think of - the owner of the kiln, the police and the ambulance - but no calls got through.

A rescue team of firemen arrived at 2pm and dug for two hours without any result before leaving.

"All they had was a shovel. It was not helpful," Duan Jigui said. The owner of the kiln then arrived with a bulldozer, but even that had failed to make an impression on the debris when work stopped at 9pm.

About 200 armed police resumed digging early on Sunday morning and at 9am Duan Jigui saw his brother's body. "He was wearing nothing but shorts because the kiln was too hot," he said. "His gloves were still on and he was lying on his stomach, with his arms up like he was still trying to crawl out. It was so heartbreaking to see him like that."

Duan Jihong had wounds all over his body. One of his arms was broken and his ears had been torn off. Villagers carried the body home and washed it for burial.

"My brother was very hard-working and all he thought about was making money by working more and saving more so that he could build a house for his son," Duan Jigui said.

They had left home at 4am on Saturday so that they could work an extra three hours and earn 25 yuan more. "I felt so terrible for him. He worked all his life to earn more money and yet he died in that tragic way."


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