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The thread of life amid debris of destruction
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Children from Beichuan county, one of the worst-hit areas in Sichuan province, play a game in Jiuzhou Stadium in Mianyang city yesterday. A lot of people who lost their homes in the quake have taken shelter in the stadium.

Yang Debiao refuses to eat. "How can I when I have lost 60 family members and relatives in the quake?" says the 38-year-old. "How can I live without my wife? What will I tell my daughter when she asks where her mother is?"

Yang has just returned from Shanxi province where he worked in a mine.

His wife died when the cyber caf she used to work in collapsed. His nine-year-old daughter escaped miraculously, though hundreds of her schoolmates died when their school building collapsed.

Yang and Deng Xingyou, a retiree, are sitting on the rubble of building with their surviving relatives. Two bundles of clothes and quilts and a bottle of edible oil lie near them. Both of them returned to Beichuan county from a shelter in Mianyang city on Monday in the hope of finding their loved ones.

Though many people have been found alive under the debris of buildings after five, six or even seven days, the chance of finding one now is too remote.

Deng is in the town in search of his doctor daughter. But he still doesn't know what has happened to her. The Beichuan Hospital where she used to work, however, collapsed, burying hundreds of doctors and patients in its rubble.

"I hope there is miracle. I shuttle between the shelter and my home that now is in ruins every day. And I hope my daughter walks out of somewhere and hugs me," Deng says.

Yang has even ignored the threat of his badly damaged house collapsing on him and walked in toward what was once his kitchen. "I hope to see my wife cooking or to hear the sound of TV coming from the other room, telling me she is watching some program."

"This has become a dangerous place very fragile so fragile that even a helicopter carrying relief for the villagers could trigger a landslide," Yang says.

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