Luobo village in Wenchuan, Sichuan Province, is a mountain paradise for the Qiang ethnic minority that live there. But on May 12, 2008, the sleepy town became a nightmare. Residents there will remember the Wenchuan Earthquake forever. They will also remember Ma Qianguo, the Party chief of the community, who became known as its protector in hard times.
The Wenchuan earthquake brought titanic changes to Luobo. The ground shook. Houses came crashing down. Dust filled the air. The magnitude-8.0 earthquake rattled the village fiercely. And so did the aftershocks.
"The earthquake came all of a sudden. Most of the houses collapsed at once. More than 200 people were killed or wounded. Sixty more went missing, and 1,000 became homeless. Tragedy! Our village was completely ruined," Ma said, choking back tears.
Ma faced the disaster fearlessly. Never did he yield to the danger.
After the main shock, Ma bolted out his room and screamed: "Earthquake! Earthquake! Run to open ground. Run!" Upon arriving at the field, Ma called a meeting to organize evacuation, search and rescue efforts. Aftershocks continued to rumble through the area, and the village was still in danger. Volunteers were organized.
Ma led rescue efforts. Lacking proper equipment, Ma used his hands. His fingers bled. Ma ignored the pain. In the end, more than 60 survivors were transferred to a safe area.
Every minute counted. In face of the injured, Wang was anxious. Ma joined other villagers to dig out buried pharmaceuticals. People from the women's federation were arranged to attend to the wounded. Ma Jiali, 5, was seriously injured. Ma ordered three young men to carry the girl to the county hospital five miles away. The wounded were all eventually sent to the hospital.
For two days after the catastrophe, Ma ate and drank nothing. Instead, he joined the rescue group, striking ahead. As the leader, he did all he could. Everyone was inspired. By May 15, three days after the quake, only 17 people were still missing. Working with soldiers deployed to aid the disaster relief, they found all the victims. Seeing the dead, Ma burst into tears. Thanks to Ma's efforts, all the remains were dealt with promptly.
Disaster shows no mercy, but man has a sympathetic heart. In order to house the homeless, Ma asked the head of the Everbright Corporation for some beach umbrellas and plastic film. Together with some oilcloth and plastic bags, nine temporary shelters were set up. All were finally housed, which relieved Ma. Ma himself lived in a tent so small he couldn't turn around inside it. "I am a Party member. I'd rather suffer more," Ma said.
In order to maintain peace and stability, Ma ordered some volunteers to patrol the shelters round the clock. Ma moved from place from place to console the villagers. His feet were bruised and covered with bleeding blisters after the long journey. His socks were blood-stained. Ma clenched his fist and kept going.
To prevent the epidemic disease, Ma gave repeated instructions that everyone must eat clean food, drink clean water, and protect the environment.
Ma saw the villagers as his relatives. Priority was given to the general public, who in turn gave him high praise.
Wang Wenquan, a villager, caught cold. Though it was pitch-dark and rainy outside, Ma brought Wang medicine. Wang was deeply moved.
Zhang Qianmei lost all her relatives in the disaster. Ma gave her his sweater. "Don't be sad. We are all together with you. We will take care of you." Ma said.
When disaster struck, help came from all sides. After the earthquake, policemen and soldiers came to help. Hoping to provide better meals for the rescuers, Ma donated 250 kilograms of bacon.
As time passed by, things looked up. Ma busied himself repairing roads, which were so twisted and damaged by landslides and rock falls that any carelessness might cause death. Although risky, Ma and the villagers made them passable again.
Due to the abruptness of the quake, most properties were buried under rubble. Food and shelter were in short supply. Ma risked his own life to retrieve clothes and food for the public from his shaking house. He and the villagers trudged through the mountains to transport relief supplies. Ma also walked between the villages and towns to report on progress made by relief efforts. As long as there was hope, Ma would never give up. "I don't want to sit down. I am afraid I would fall right asleep." Ma said.
There was really nothing more we could ask from him.
Life goes on. Restoration and reconstruction continues full steam. Ma tirelessly leads the Luobo village to further development.