China: Grief Turns to Anger

In a previous post about China and the horrible earthquake, I wrote about parents who are crying after their children bodies.

I also wrote that when tears start to dry, time will come for anger and asking explanation.

Time came.

And people are really angry. It is very easy to understand.

Bereaved parents whose children were crushed to death in their classrooms during the earthquake in Sichuan province have turned mourning ceremonies into protest events in recent days, forcing officials to address a growing political backlash over shoddy construction of public schools.

Parents of the estimated 10,000 children who lost their lives in the quake have grown so enraged about collapsed schools that they have overcome their usual caution about confronting Communist Party officials.

Many say they are especially upset that some schools for poor students crumbled into rubble even though government offices and more elite schools not far away survived the quake largely intact.

A woman cries near rubble from the Juyuan Middle School, as family members mourn students killed when the building collapsed. Most of the 900 students in the building were killed as a result of the May 12 earthquake.
PHOTO: NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE

On Tuesday, an informal gathering of parents in Dujiangyan to commemorate their children gave way to unbridled fury. One of the fathers in attendance, a quarry worker named Liu Lifu, grabbed the microphone and began calling for justice. His 15-year-old daughter, Liu Li, had died along with her entire class during a biology lesson.

“We demand that the government severely punish the killers who caused the collapse of the school building,” he shouted. “Please, everyone sign the petition so we can find out the truth.”

The crowd grew more agitated. Some parents said that local officials had known for years that the school was unsafe but refused to take action. Others recalled that two hours passed before rescue workers showed up; even then, they stopped working at 10pm the night of the earthquake and did not resume the search until 9am the next day.

Sharp confrontations between protesters and officials began over the weekend in several towns in northern Sichuan. Hundreds of parents whose children died at the Fuxin No. 2 Primary School in the city of Mianzhu staged an impromptu rally on Saturday.

The next day, the Communist Party’s top official in Mianzhu came out to talk with the parents and stop them from marching to Chengdu, the largest city in the region, where they sought to prevail on higher level authorities to investigate.

The local party boss, Jiang Guohua, dropped to his knees and pleaded with them to abandon the protest, but the parents shouted in his face and continued their march. Does he worry about any investigation?

Here his picture:

The protests threaten to undermine the government’s attempts to promote its response to the quake as effective and to highlight heroic rescue efforts by the People’s Liberation Army, which has dispatched 150,000 soldiers to the region.

Censors have blocked detailed reporting of the schools controversy from the state-run media, but a photo of Jiang kneeling before protesters has become a sensation on some Web forums, bringing national attention to the incident.

The police tried to intervene. During the ensuing struggle, the broken glass from the pictures of dead children left several parents bleeding:

The parents who lost their children at Juyuan Middle School say they have yet to hear from Dujiangyan officials.

A few parents said they had been approached by teachers and told they would be well-compensated for their loss — about US$4,500 per child — if they would stop their increasingly vociferous public campaign.

Can you believe it?

What is the price for a life?

What is the price for the death of your only one child?

They call “that” to be well compensated?

Parents want justice. Nothing more.

 

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More Disaster Is Expected in Burma

In a previous post, I mentioned the visit of the UN Secretary General in Myanmar (Burma), giving hope for the population in urgent need of help (food, medical care…). The junta said they will open their borders to all foreign rescuers.

As usual with this kind of government, nothing is moving except the poor people who are evicted from the tents camps by the police.

Foreign aids are still not accepted and it is almost impossible for the rescuers there to go to the different locations of the disaster.

Here is a show, prepared for the visit of the UN Secretary General: people lined up in front their tents. Do you notice that everything is clean? Looks like a vacation camp…

A closer picture:

How could we believe that these pictures represent the reality?

So now, Myanmar’s junta started evicting destitute families from government-run cyclone relief centers on Friday, apparently fearing the ‘tented villages’ might become permanent.

Singapore said Myanmar’s generals were wary of admitting foreign aid workers because it would show they were not capable of handling the disaster.

“The military leaders surely know that foreign aid will save lives and help to rebuild the devastated areas. But they also fear the political consequence of opening up the disaster zone to international aid teams,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at a security conference in Singapore.

Four weeks after the disaster, the United Nations says fewer than half of the 2.4 million people affected by the cyclone have received help from the government, or international or local aid groups.

“We certainly don’t endorse premature return to where there are no services, and any forced or coerced movement is completely unacceptable,” U.N. spokeswoman Amanda Pitt said in Bangkok.

The evictions come a day after official media in the former Burma lashed out at offers of foreign aid, criticizing donors’ demands for access to the delta and saying cyclone victims could “stand by themselves”.

“The people from Irrawaddy can survive on self-reliance without chocolate bars donated by foreign countries,” the Kyemon newspaper said.

Nearly a week after junta leader Than Shwe promised to allow in “all” legitimate foreign aid workers, 45 remaining U.N. visa requests had been approved on Wednesday, but red tape is still hampering access to the delta.

In Geneva, the International labor Organization said Myanmar may try to use forced labor to rebuild the country.

The ILO warned of “the increased risk of incidences of forced labor, child labor, human trafficking and migrant labor as the authorities and individuals come to grips with the sheer size of the tragedy”.

What can you expect from this government who not only refuses rescuers to help people but also insults the foreign aid by calling their help “chocolate bars”.

 

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More Is Coming

I am preparing one post about some updates concerning China and Burma disasters.

It will be revolting.

Will be done this week-end.

 

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China: Massive Evacuations of Residents to Avoid a New Disaster

The mass evacuations of population continues in the south-west China at the risk of rupture of dams, more than two weeks after the earthquake that claimed at least 88,000 dead and missing.

The authorities have decided to evacuate before midnight Tuesday some 80,000 people threatened by the rupture of a natural dam that was formed as a result of landslides in Tangjiashan, and retains a precarious 130 million cubic meters of water Jian’s river.

If the dam made of earth and boulders had to drop out of control, 1.3 million people are expected to be evacuated of emergency in the city of Mianyang, reported the Chinese media.

Without achieving this extreme measure, the authorities have already decided to move a total of 158,000 people for their operation controlled drainage of the river Jian.

Nearly 2,000 soldiers went on foot into the mountains to open a breach in a controlled way in the natural dam, but he was unsure whether use of explosives carried with them and that may trigger further landslides in this valley.

Bulldozers were also helicopter on the site.

In total, the earthquake of May 12 has created 35 natural lakes restraint, by definition, unstable and threatening to people living downstream.

The official toll earthquake, still provisional, grew Tuesday with 67,183 confirmed dead and 20,790 missing. The previous record of reported Monday confirmed 65,080 dead and 23,150 missing.

The number of injured stands at 361,822, “said Guo Weimin, the government spokesman.

From the authorities’ own point of view, the chances of finding survivors now take a miracle.

More than two weeks after this earthquake, the deadliest since 32 years in China, efforts will now focus on helping disaster victims and care of wounded.

The risk now is epidemics.

The government spokesman said that 15 million people should be relocated, adding that 45 million in total were affected, the vast majority in the province of Sichuan.

International aid has significantly increased in recent days, particularly in the medical field. After the after-shock on Sunday that left at least 8 dead and destroyed 70,000 houses, France announced Monday evening the delivery of a third aircraft loaded with 33 tons of humanitarian aid.

Tuesday, new aftershocks have occurred with the highest, estimated at 5.7 on the Richter scale by the Office of Chinese earthquakes, shook the province of Shaanxi, north-east of Sichuan.

 

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70,000 homes collapse in Chinese aftershock

Less than an hour ago…

More than 70,000 houses toppled during an aftershock that rocked China’s earthquake-ravaged Sichuan province on Sunday, state television reported.

At least one person was killed and 400 were hurt when the 5.8 magnitude tremor hit southwest China, according to the Xinhua state news agency. The aftershock also caused office towers to sway 800 miles away in Beijing.

The latest aftershock is one of the strongest to hit Sichuan since the May 12 earthquake that battered large parts of the province.

China’s Cabinet also raised the official death toll from the natural disaster to 62,664. The government has said the final death toll could surpass 80,000.

Meanwhile, officials warned that nearly 70 dams scarred by the force of China’s most powerful earthquake in three decades were in danger of bursting.

The government had earlier said some 391 dams had been affected by the quake, mostly small structures.

Hundreds of troops carrying explosives were trekking through the area, attempting to reach one “quake lake” that threatens a secondary disaster.

Concerned by a steep rise in the water level of a giant lake at Tangjiashan, authorities want to blast a hole in the barrier before it bursts and causes a flash flood. Thousands have been evacuated from below the lake as a precaution.

Sichuan is home to the world’s largest water project, the Three Gorges dam located about 350 miles east of the epicenter, which authorities have said was not damaged in the quake.

 

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Is Myanmar Opening?

Making the first visit to Myanmar by a UN secretary general in more than four decades, Ban held talks with Than Shwe and later told reporters that he had agreed to let in all foreign aid workers.

International aid groups reacted cautiously yesterday to the announcement that Myanmar would allow all foreign relief workers into the country, stressing that details on the ground were still unclear.

Groups said that the relief effort needed more than simply foreigners flying in to the main city Yangon.

“The important issue is whether we can leave Yangon or not,” Paul Risley, spokesman for the World Food Programme, said in Thailand.

The secretive junta has all but sealed off the southern Irrawaddy Delta hardest hit by the storm on May 2 and May 3, which left at least 133,000 people dead or missing and approximately 2.5 million in dire need of immediate aid.

Young Burmese cyclone survivors play near their damaged house on the outskirts of Yangon, Myanmar, on Thursday.
PHOTO: EPA

“We still have to clarify what this means — who can get in, who can go where,” John Sparrow of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said.

“Does it mean that the people we have standing by can enter the country? Does it mean we can gear up and go full throttle?” Sparrow said. “It isn’t clear right now.”

The US and France have naval vessels in nearby waters laden with relief supplies, but Myanmar has refused to let them in — and it was not immediately clear if that situation would change.

The result from the UN Secretary General visit is a positive move to the right direction.

But as reactions from International Aid Groups emphasize, they are many questions with no answers until now.

Let’s hope…

 

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When Politics and Corruption Hurt People in China and Burma

A picturesque Chinese region becomes a scene of anguish as residents rush home, only to find their loved ones buried under landslides.

                    

Not all buildings collapsed, but a lot of schools yes. It emphasizes the fact that education in many areas are under-funded.

Parents who lost their only-one child (Chinese birth policy) are now crying but we start to hear strong anger over school construction and corruption linked to it.

Beside, we can see that all people are doing their best in China by participating to the rescue or making donation (money, food, clothes…).

But time is running very fast. Political starts now to say that time is crucial and chances to find survivors buried under rumble are diminishing.

Of course, it is common sense. But in that case, why did they refuse any foreign rescue team until yesterday? Almost one week after the disaster?

Answers from all around are clear: political have to show to the population through the TV news that they are able to handle the problem and that they are doing every possible thing to save people.

But maybe more people would have been saved if more rescuers were allowed from the beginning.

In Burma, the situation is worst.

If in China, at least people are working day and night to rescue and take care of survivors, it seems that in Burma, survivors are totally forgotten.

Official toll is 78,000 people. But many international specialists as the Red Cross or the British government’s Department for International Development suggest the number of dead or missing is in the region of 217,000.

Beside, after the cyclone, several storms and heavy rains are making the situation for the survivors, worst.

            

The Red Cross warned that a lack of clean water may swell the ranks of the dead.

The junta maintains it has the situation under control. But after two weeks, the U.N. remains largely in the dark about the situation on the ground.

And locals confirm when it is possible, that not only survivors are begging any kind of help, but rumors about foreign aid stolen by military are spreading.

Burma authorized aid to be sent there but the U.N. says the regime has issued only 40 visas to its staffers and another 46 to non-government agencies and has confined the personnel to the immediate Yangon area. Useless…

Marshall, the U.N. official, said the military has set up checkpoints on the two main roads to the delta to keep foreigners out of the disaster zone. Even local staff have to negotiate with the military to gain access to the camps.

In the meantime, ordinary people are stepping in, with shopkeepers handing out rice gruel and medical students caring for the sick.

But the government was reportedly interfering with those efforts as well.

In an interview with the Democratic Voice of Burma, the abbot of Mandalay’s Maha Gandaryon monastery said monks were stockpiling relief supplies and getting trucks to take in aid.

“We are still in the preparation stages,” he told the radio, which is critical of the junta. “We have contacted some private organizations and services, and found out that they were told by the authorities not to work with us in aid distribution. They said we can’t go with them.”

Even a serious dispute occurred yesterday between the Burma’s ambassador in U.N. and the one from France.

France sent a military ship from an Indian port (helicopters carrier) with 1,500 tons of food, drugs and medication.

But not only Burma refused to let the ship entering national waters, it accused France for sending a war ship!

In some other circumstances, we could find that funny, ironic and/or stupid.

But now, it is dramatic. People are dying…

I remember that China is a strong supporter and partner of Burma.

Why China does not put its weight on it?

 

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