Seven months have passed, but the bodies of May 12 earthquake victims continue to be recovered.
Guangzhou police examine the bodies of victims recovered from the Yuzixi'erhe River.
A particularly tragic accident occurred on May 12 when a bus from Zhejiang to Wolong Nature Reserve was passing through Yingxiu. A landslide caused by the collapse of the mountainside carried the bus into the nearby Yuzixi'erhe River. Of the unfortunate passengers in the bus, 18 were trapped and died in the river, while 9 escaped from the bus – but six of them subsequently perished in further landslides. The three desperate survivors hung on through three days and nights of struggle, providing each other with mutual support.
Recently the police were informed by a road repair team that a bus buried by the collapse of the mountain during the Wenchuan earthquake had been recovered from the Yuzixi'erhe River and they were asked to send experts to identify the bodies in the bus.
Five Guangzhou policemen proceeded as quickly as possible to the site of the accident. Threatened themselves by the risk of landslides and infection, they began to examine the decaying bodies of the victims. The whole examination took about 20 hours. Of the 18 bodies examined, 15 could be identified on the spot.
Outside the police cordon, relatives of the victims found it difficult to contain their emotions. Some of them were desperate to offer wine to their loved ones. But in the highly infectious environment, the families had to be kept at a safe distance. The policemen took two bottles of Erguotou (a strong Chinese liquor) and poured it around each of the bodies. "Drink this wine and depart in peace!" shouted Deng Bo, the sub police chief. Together the policemen and the relatives of the dead shed tears at the sight.
After completing the grim task, one policeman threw up. He had experienced many accidents but this was the first time that an investigation had brought him to such a pass. Why had they brought the Erguotou with them on such assignment? Shame-facedly, Gu Limin, a 46-year-old policeman, explained, "We have to drink hard spirits after examining the bodies. The smell of the bodies and the psychological trauma would be intolerable without it."
(China.org.cn by Zhang Ming'ai, December 16, 2008)