Sunday, February 10, 2013

Natural Disaster - A Landslide

Besides the two drowned tragedies, there was a local storm that claimed hundreds of lives a few miles away in the mountains. The hail and the thunderstorm that night were scary. The next day we heard that there was a landslide not far from us on the mountains. Houses were buried or washed away. The whole event took place in about one hour. Girls in our class decided to collect some money, clothes, and grain coupons to help the local community; a few boys joined us too. It happened that we didn’t have any classes the next morning, just physical education in the afternoon. So we got up early in the morning, packed up everything, and started to walk toward the village.
     I had never seen anything like that before. The boulders were as big as trucks and had come out of nowhere. The whole place was a huge mess of rocks and dirt. It was hard to imagine that it used to be a village with houses. They were all underneath our feet. A few houses scattered around luckily remained, just missed by a few feet. Rivers of water ran through the homes from back to front. The survivors we met emotionlessly described how their neighbors’ houses and families washed away in the dark around 11 PM.
     We visited a few more houses and left our donations with the local community leader and asked him to distribute them to the needy. On the way back, we saw some geologists on their way to investigate. I was hoping to have more time so I could talk to them but we had to rush back for our physical education class in the steamy summer sun before 2 PM. We did make it to the class, although we felt like we already had the class all morning. We told our teacher the story and she let us take it easy without running.
     When I was in college 1981, my city Chengdu back home had a big flood. I heard that hundreds of people died in the villages around. Since my city was the capital of the province, the major goal was to protect the big city and give up the little ones by diverting water away from my city by an agricultural irrigation system. No one died in my city while others died not far away. One of the dam controllers decided to open a few dams toward my city to save lives in a small town. So, the channels around the city were filled all the way above bridges and even the city was flooded by 1-meter high water. Fortunately, the flood ended there.
     We had a number of little earthquakes while I was in college. Most of these, I didn’t even feel; however, there were tremors felt in our dorm in the middle of the night. Someone felt a small one and started to shout, “earthquake, earthquake” and everyone rushed out. Some tripped over each other on the way down the stairs, and one student even jumped from his second floor window and broke something. After that incident, we did not get excited anymore, especially at night. Only a few ran outside. We thought that it was not worth it because if it was a big earthquake, we didn’t have time to run anyway even if we ran downstairs.