- Posted May 20, 2008 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The world is on fire.
In Chengdu a soldier rests waiting to be deployed to Beichuan.
Burning wood, garbage, bodies. Smoke has settled over the city now, cutting visibility to a few hundred meters. Breathing the dead. Sound of traffic replaced by sirens, stillness. Unease at every tremble of the earth. Whispers on
the wind. Another quake is coming. Heavy traffic through the night, people moving. Sirens wail. I sleep 2 hours.
Shops closed, city empty. A shell of what was. Notifications posted, pictures of corpse-hands reaching from wreckage on every window. 3 days of mourning now for 7 long nights. Rockslides buried hundreds of rescue workers alive. Fighting against the mountains now. Dam above Beichuan a threat, failure would mean thousands entombed forever and more lost. Candlelight vigils in the camps.
Volunteered at the Red Cross depot. Two days loading vehicles. The first day vehicles of all sizes arriving at a steady pace into the night. Some drop off goods, arrivals loaded and sent to nearest drop zone. Packages loaded and
unloaded, a blur. Mountains of water, rice, clothing, shoes. In early evening depot runs out of food. Day passes, dry sound of boxes being transferred from hand to hand to hand interrupted only by cheers as military men depart for the
mountain. I volunteer to go, signing on the line. No fatigue, firelining water into the depot endlessly. Return home late, late drifting to dreamless sleep.
Tired of packing every night, waiting for the worst. Walking through the days, world on mute. Sounds less loud, colors less bright. Still, people hope.
The second day passes as first. The depot is a living thing. Volunteers come from everywhere. Halfway into the day I return to staging area watching trucks arriving and going, willing passengers headed into the fray. 7 days then, 8 now. Cries ring out for specialists, doctors, engineers. And I wait. Talk to volunteers from Shanghai waiting pensively. Medical staff pass out bitter herbal tea to fight fatigue. I drink while talking to soldier back from Beichuan, bitterness I taste reflected in his face. Smokes a cigarette, wearing a scarf somehow oblivious to harsh Spring sun.
Have seen field map of known open roads. For first time, traffic heading south makes sense. Only way into Wenchuan is south to Ya'an, Ma'erkang, and then Lixian. Over 250km the long way, another 115km to Beichuan impassable. Straight shot less then 100km and no way to get there without wings.
Fear the worst has not come yet. Coming months bringing disease, malnutrition, exposure, death. Enough food, water, blankets, medicine. Not