Chinese tour guide who was also caught up in 2008 Sichuan earthquake survives after prying open lift door with bare hands
Visitors tell how they fled their hotels and sought refuge outside in the cold of the night after fatal earthquake struck popular tourist area
A Chinese tour guide who also survived the Sichuan earthquake nine years ago and injured foreign tourists were among those who had a narrow escape when the magnitude 7 earthquake struck Jiuzhaigou on Tuesday night.
He Min, a guide working for Tonghua Travel Agency,was travelling with 19 visitors to the area and was staying in the Tianyuan Haosheng Hotel when the quake struck, according to Shanghai news portal Thepaper.cn.
She was alone in the hotel lift when the power was suddenly cut off and she was left in the dark. Her mobile had run out of power so she kept pounding on the lift doors for help without the least idea that an earthquake had struck and how chaotic it was outside.
“I didn’t know what to do and I was so desperate,” He told the website. She saw some light after lying on her stomach and hoped this meant there would still be oxygen.
She grew even more desperate after nobody came to her for about half an hour and decided to help herself.
“I thought of my three-year-old baby at home and could not wait any longer,” He told the website.
With strength she did not realise she had, she forced open the lift doors with her hands.
He said she was could not help bursting into tears after someone told her had been an earthquake.
On May 12, 2008, she had happened to be at Yingxiu, the epicentre of the earthquake that struck the province that, with another tour party and saw with her own eyes how the earthquake – which left around 78,000 dead and injured 375,000 – swallowed up a parking lot.
“I can’t believe I would be experiencing another earthquake within 10 years,” she told the website.
Following the 2008 disaster, she had to walk around 40 kilometres with her clients to the city of Dujiangyan.
This time, after calming herself down, she found her clients and arranged for them to contact their families to let them know they were safe.
Yu Wenchao, another tour guide, said many visitors were watching a show when the hotel started to shake, making loud noises. The tourists started to run to the exits and, by the time they ran out of the hotel, the jolts had stopped.
However, the guests decided to stay outdoors for the night in the buses and tents. The open space in the car park was crowded with people.
“It was very cold at night, about 10 degrees Celsius,” Yu said.
A Frenchman and a Canadian woman were among those injured in the quake, Xinhua reported.
Maxence Vallon, 18, was wounded in both legs; while the Canadian woman, who declined to be named, suffered a slight injury to the head.
Both are being treated at the people’s hospital in Jiuzhaigou county. The exact number of casualties of foreign nationals were not yet available.
Doctors who did an X-ray on Vallon’s legs said stone fragments had been found embedded in his right leg and he needed immediate surgery to prevent infection.
“We were lying on the open ground to seek safety when a big stone fell and hit my brother right in the leg,” Maxence’s brother Romain , who is studying in Beijing, told the state news agency.
The brothers were staying in a hotel with their mother in Jiuzhaigou when the quake happened.
The Canadian woman will be allowed to leave hospital within two or three days, doctors said.
“We received excellent care. The rescuers and doctors have been very helpful,” she said.
Meanwhile, villagers living in the scenic area spent the night helping tourists and each other as they waited in the cold for rescuers to arrive.
An local internet user using the name Zeerle told 36Kr.com that the village committee had assembled villagers and tourists in the open space of the village and lit campfire to keep out the cold.
Another visitor, who was identified only by his family name Jia, said he was staying in a hot spring hotel 2 kilometres away and described how everybody ran out of the hotel. There were no reported injuries and the building stayed standing, so they returned to their rooms to collect
The hotel did not collapse and nobody was injured. They returned to the room to collect pillows and quilts and spent two hours waiting in a basketball court before armed police arrived.
Jia added that they had to remain outdoors for the night but everyone remained calm.
Power supplies and the internet have since been restored to the area.
The quake in Sichuan province has killed at least 13 and injured 175 others, according to the information office of the provincial government.