Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Cracked Dam Poses New Threat to Earthquake Ravaged China

Al Jazeera's Melissa Chan is in Bei-chuan, one of the areas hardest hit by the quake.

South Korean News agency reports:

" The hardest-hit city of Mianyang in Sichuan Province, China, was seen dotted with makeshift shelters housing the victims of the earthquake that shook China three days ago.

The strongest quake in 32 years has wreaked havoc on the lives of Sichuan Province residents, who have been fighting fear and chilly temperatures in makeshift tents while searching for their displaced family members.

A 40-year-old woman hunkered down in a corner of a tent was still trembling in fear, saying, “I still feel the shaking. I can’t get into my house.”

Most shops in the city were closed for fear of aftershocks, except some grocery stores selling living commodities. Dong-A special correspondents visited a gym that reportedly houses the largest number of victims.

A temporary home to 12,000 victims, the gym was packed to capacity with people. Tents were mushrooming outside the gym, swarmed with people searching for their missing family members. In total, 50,000 people were moving in and out of the gym.

Despite police shutdown of the roads a kilometer ahead of the facility, roads moving pass it were almost like parking lots crowded with vehicles and people.

A farmer from a rural prefecture was peeping into tents, holding a board with the names of his three sisters written on it. He lamented, “I can’t find my three sisters.”

A 27-year-old mother, eyes swollen from crying, grabbed every one she bumped into, searching for her husband and 7-year-old son."

Tim Johnson of McClatchy Newspapers reports on how this natural disaster has encouraged the Chinese government to momentarily relax its control over the media:

" BEIJING — Amid a national outpouring of grief over Monday's huge earthquake, China has relaxed its grip — perhaps only briefly — on the Internet and some media outlets.

Chinese witnesses to the devastation in Sichuan province have flooded Web sites with homemade videos, filled chat rooms with commentary and let text messages fly from their mobile phones.

The disaster has provided an opportunity for "citizen journalists" to disseminate tidbits of information at a furious pace rarely seen before, experts said.

China's conventional media, initially lagging behind bloggers and users of instant messaging services, also have found greater freedoms, showing often-distressing images of quake-ruined areas without the sanitizing that censors usually demand.

"This is pretty special in terms of letting a lot of reporting happen," said Andrew Lih, a technology author living in Beijing and former scholar of new media at Columbia University.

The death toll from the earthquake, which registered a calamitous 7.9 magnitude, reached 14,866 people Wednesday. As many as 25,000 others may still be buried under the rubble of devastated towns in rugged Sichuan province.

"You just can't hide it. It's a gigantic event. You've got citizens with cell phones with cameras and video filing stuff," Lih said.

China leads the world for mobile phone and Internet users. Some 574 million Chinese have mobile phones, and 221 million regularly use the Internet, slightly more than in the United States. Also hugely popular are an array of instant-messaging services accessed either by computer or by mobile phone.

Wary of citizen efforts to access sensitive information or conspire against the government, China's one-party state normally employs a vast array of human and electronic means to keep the digital arena sterile, including maintaining barriers to foreign Web sites through what has been dubbed the Great Firewall of China.

But unlike a series of crises earlier this year — such as weeks of snowstorms that paralyzed central China in January and February, or violent unrest among Tibetans in March — the earthquake united the nation in mourning and action. "

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.