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The fall of Liu Xiu
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By David Ferguson

China.org.cn correspondent reporting from Sichuan


Above the town of Hanwang, there is a constant clatter of helicopters heading into and back from the mountains. It reminds me of the American TV program, M.A.S.H.

Down on the ground is the war zone. Hanwang is not in the mountains, but pressed right up against their foot. It lay 30 km from the epicenter of the earthquake.

Much of the small town was destroyed, and there were thousands of casualties. Worse than that, if anything could be, was the fall of the Dongqi Experimental Middle School. Hundreds died – the final toll will not be known for some time yet.

The pattern we saw yesterday in Yinghua was again repeated. As we climb through the town towards the mountains, within the space of a mile or two extensive damage becomes total destruction. But where Yinghua was a village built largely of single storey individual homes, Hanwang was a thriving industrial town whose inhabitants lived mainly in low-rise six-floor apartment blocks, and it is these that have collapsed.

Whoelsale destruction in Hanwang

The town was home to the Dongfang Steam Turbine Works, one of China's best-known and most prestigious engineering firms, and it is the company's Dongqi quarter at the top of the town that was hardest-hit. Many of these were well-built modern homes, housing some of China's best engineers and technicians whose loss will be a double-blow.

The Dongqi area has now been closed. Rescue work there has ended, as there is no hope of finding further survivors, and the retrieval of the buried dead must wait until other priorities have been met. A specialist group from Holland, three experts from Signi Zoekhonden (Signi Search Dogs) had just arrived along with us. Their dogs are specially trained to find dead bodies. They will have work for many days.

A policeman examined our credentials as we entered the area, and told us to be careful walking around, as many of the buildings that did not fall are extremely dangerous.

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