Search for Victims Turns Up a Quake Survivor Four days after a powerful earthquake struck China's Sichuan province, survivors are still being located, freed from rubble by rescue teams. Days after the quake, a search party found and rescued a survivor in a devastated village in Sichuan. But getting the man out of a collapsed factory was no simple matter.
NPR logo

Search for Victims Turns Up a Quake Survivor

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Search for Victims Turns Up a Quake Survivor

Search for Victims Turns Up a Quake Survivor

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Noah Adams.

Four days after the massive earthquake in China, some survivors - very few - are being pulled from the ruins. The death toll is now 22,000. It's feared many more could have died. As relief teams perform the grim task of pulling bodies from the debris, there have been some rare moments of joy as well.

NPR's Louisa Lim witnessed one of them.

LOUISA LIM: Over the past week, the village of Yinghua near Sichuan town has seen unimaginable suffering. Monday's earthquake flattened every house in a stroke transforming a peaceful mountain village into a huge heap of bricks, wooden beams and concrete blocks. The village's primary school collapsed - like so many others - crashing at least 100 children to death. And it's believed 200 workers died when a fertilizer factory caved in.

This building used to be five stories, now you can only see the top two. All the rest are completely sandwiched in on top of each other.

Yet amazingly, rescuers have found signs of life. Fifty-year-old Liu Deyun trapped on the bottom floor for 100 hours, his arm and leg pinned by rubble, but he's still talking. It's a dangerous and delicate task to free him from underneath the tottering structure, which could come tumbling down at any moment.

(Soundbite of people talking)

LIM: As soldiers and firemen worked, his 23-year-old daughter Liu Yuanyuan and his wife watched intently, clasping each other's hands tightly. Liu Yuanyuan says this was the last thing they'd expected.

Ms. YUANYUAN LIU: (Through translator) We hadn't had any news about him. We thought he died. I think this is a miracle. I don't care what condition he's in as long as he's alive.

LIM: They'd arrived on the scene late last night and had been talking to him through the night, trying to keep his spirits up. Liu Yuanyuan described her first words to him.

Ms. LIU: (Through translator) I called out, father, and he said, I'm thirsty. And he started crying. I have a son who's two and a half who gets on well with my father, so I told my father that my son was at home waiting for him.

LIM: His daughter explains that Mr. Liu hadn't even been employed by the factory.

Ms. LIU: (Through translator) He was delivering coal to the factory here like he does every day, but no one could have imagined there would be an earthquake.

LIM: So there are now crowds of people who've gathered here to watch this rescue attempt that perched precariously on the slabs of concrete and broken walls from the factory that collapsed. And everybody is waiting expectedly to see what will happen.

Unidentified Man: (Speaking in foreign language)

LIM: So his daughter has been talking to the rescuers, and Mr. Liu's leg is trapped underneath the rubble, and they've been asking her whether she would agree for the leg to be amputated if necessary in order to pull him out of the rubble, and she have agreed.

It looked as if the rescue is imminent. The firemen have now hoisted a red flag showing the name of their unit, it's Nanjing Fire Department, so they've come across the entire country to be here today.

(Soundbite of people cheering)

LIM: This is unbelievable, 100 hours after the earthquake, a living survivor is being removed from this building.

(Soundbite of people talking)

LIM: Soldiers are walking down. They're carrying a stretcher with a man on top. They're loading him into the ambulance now.

(Soundbite of sirens blaring)

LIM: He'll be going straight to a hospital. The doctors have been forced to amputate one leg and part of an arm to save Mr. Liu. He'd been conscious and talking throughout the procedure, although he'd been given an anesthetic. Army doctor, Zhao Hongxing is confident Mr. Liu will survive his horrifying ordeal.

Dr. ZHAO HONGXING: (Through translator) In his current condition, his internal organs haven't received any serious damage. This man has an extremely strong will to live. We should respect him for this.

LIM: For the army doctor, it's been a week of heartbreak and frustration. Arriving here the day after the earthquake, he'd been unable to rescue those stuck under the rubble because of a lack of specialized equipment. He and those trapped in the debris in agonizing pain had been forced to wait for the arrival of the specialist firemen from Nanjing. Here, Dr. Zhao describes the moment when Mr. Liu was pulled out of the building, just minutes after the amputation.

Dr. HONGXING: (Through translator) When he came out, he said, the army is great, and the doctors are great.

(Soundbite of people cheering)

LIM: This is a rare moment of jubilation for the army. It's also clearly being used as a public relations triumph. A very senior general - Wang Weishan, head of the 15th Army - has been flown in to congratulate the troops in front of the cameras.

General WANG WEISHAN (Chinese Army): (Through translator) Our army has a glorious tradition in relief work because our army comes from the people, and it serves the people.

(Soundbite of applause)

LIM: The troops celebrate their moment of glory, amid a canvas writ(ph) large with tragedy. But for Liu Deyun, celebrations maybe premature. Recovering in a hospital, he'll soon discover his entire family is homeless. Their house was flattened in the quake.

Louis Lim, NPR News, Yinghua Village, Sichuan Province, China.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.