Life resumes in 'isolated island'

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Displaced residents of Baoxing county in the tent city at the local stadium. [Photo/ China Daily]

Displaced residents of Baoxing county in the tent city at the local stadium. [Photo/ China Daily]

Four days after the quake, survivors forced to flee their homes find hope in the struggle to recover.

In normal times, it's the scene of cries and hurrahs, a field of combat for 22 players as two sides attempt to gain victory in 90 minutes.

But these are not normal times, and today the soccer field at Baoxing Stadium is home to nearly 4,000 people, united in their battle against a common enemy and with no idea how long this "game" will last.

Baoxing county was dubbed "the isolated island" after a magnitude-7 earthquake struck neighboring Lushan county on Saturday morning, and with good reason. The road from Lushan was blocked by landslides and since the quake, residents have been engaged in the almost Sisyphean task of clearing the road only to find it blocked again by further landslides. The road is the only supply route, so it must be kept open. To add to the isolation, the telephone signal to many towns was lost until 4 pm on Monday.

At the latest count, the earthquake is known to have claimed 26 lives and injured 2,500 people in Baoxing. Residents have been warned not to go back to their homes until the houses have been checked by professionals and the all-clear has been given.

The stadium, the largest open space in town, quickly turned into a Noah's Ark on Saturday as more than 2,000 residents rushed inside to set up tents and temporary shelters. A few hundred managed to secure spaces in the stands. The arena is now the largest of four temporary settlements in the county seat, providing a home to residents, rescue teams, volunteers and the media.

At 6:30 pm on Monday, night had started to fall as Su Zhengrong chatted with friends after dinner. Although Su and the other residents face difficulties and inconveniences, the 42 year old also has a source of inner joy; she is seven months pregnant.

Su's 18-year-old son has been seriously ill for some time and so last year she decided to have another baby. "It was not easy to conceive at my age. I feel extremely lucky that the baby is fine, even though I fell down when the earthquake happened," she said with a smile, despite the bruises on her right elbow and knee.

Since the quake, Su and three friends have been cooking on a portable gas stove donated by a relative who runs a restaurant. They clubbed together and put all their vegetables and meat into a communal pot to make a dinner consisting of steamed dumplings, rice porridge and pork soup.

Su's family - husband Zhu Fangang and their son - shares a 20-square-meter tent with five other families, 16 people in total.

For fear of the damp and the coldness of the ground, Su's husband took a risk and rushed into their apartment early on Monday to retrieve a large sofa cushion, which now serves as a mattress for Su.

"But a shower is forecast for tonight and I am afraid the ground won't drain efficiently," she said.

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