Survivor crawls from rubble to find calamity Dong Xianquan clawed his way out of the rubble of a five-storey collapsed building. 'I used my chin, elbows and knees to inch forward,' said Mr Dong, who had just survived the massive earthquake that almost flattened Beichuan county. 'It was all darkness except for a faint ray of light, and all deadly silence except for a small sound of running water. I was trying to move in that direction. 'I had heard a huge noise and rushed to the door. In that split second, everything started to rain down - concrete, the door, the floor, the walls, the building, everything. 'Out of instinct, I used my right hand to try to push away falling objects; a huge piece of concrete cut my hand, and suddenly I felt as if my right hand was gone.' Mr Dong, a 39-year-old who works at the local power station, was among the lucky few to escape in the county, where more than 7,000 have been confirmed dead and nearly 80 per cent of buildings were demolished. 'Finally, I clawed out of the ruins,' he said. 'I thought I had reached the street, only to find the street didn't exist any more. Out there it was all piles of rubble, rocks, mud and bits and pieces of whatever I could now hardly recognise. Screams for help could be heard everywhere, but you couldn't locate where the voices were coming from.' Beichuan lies in a valley sandwiched by mountains, making escape extremely difficult. This probably explains why Beichuan - 34km from the epicentre in Wenchuan county, which is still cut off - accounted for almost 70 per cent of known casualties. 'The minute you ran away from a falling building, you'd probably find yourself trapped in a landslide,' said Mr Dong, who was covered in blood and mud. 'There was no single path left, and with the mountains on both sides, rocks could fly into your face at any minute.' The only building he could see still standing was near the power company, not too far away from where he lived. However, it had been badly battered and looked as if it would fall apart at any moment. Some of his colleagues were still trapped inside. In his attempts to rescue them, Mr Dong saw two female colleagues climb down a telephone line from the fifth and seventh floors. 'The county high school was gone; it had been reduced to a huge pile of rubble and was even pushed forward 100 or 200 metres,' he said. 'The county hospital had vanished. Thousands must still be buried under there.' Mr Dong recalled 1976, when an earthquake of about the same magnitude killed at least 240,000 people in Tangshan , Hebei province . 'It's definitely worse than Tangshan,' he said. 'It came completely out of the blue.' His son, 15, who goes to high school in nearby Mianyang , is missing. His wife, a teacher, survived but is still stranded at the top of a mountain where her school is. Even so, he says: 'I still call myself lucky.'