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Teenage quake hero in line for bravery award
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A 14-year-old schoolboy who saved seven smaller children from a building badly damaged in China's May 12 earthquake could be in line for national bravery award.

Tong Shiqiang repeatedly dashed into the damaged building to carry out terrified 5 and 6-year-olds just before the building collapsed.

When the 8.0-magnitude quake struck, the grade six student was having a Chinese class with 49 other pupils in Zhongwang Primary School in Qishan village of Longnan City, one of the worst-hit areas in northwest China's Gansu Province.

Behind their classroom, were 30 preschool children who were having an afternoon nap in their own classroom.

"The window began rattling and there was a sound underground that was like bees buzzing," Tong's teacher and uncle Tong Shuangxi recalled.

"The sound grew louder and I had realized it was an earthquake."

The teacher yelled "Everybody out," and all the 50 students, including Tong Shiqiang, evacuated the classroom.

But Tong Shiqiang then went to the preschool classroom to get the younger children, with him was his uncle Tong Shuangxi.

Only about three children had managed to escape the room by the time they arrived. The rest were crying or too frightened to move.

Tong Shiqiang, only 1.5 meters tall, run back and forth from the classroom, each time carrying a child under each arm.

It took less than three minutes for the two to take all the children out, with the boy saving seven of them.

Just when they were checking the roll, the walls of the classroom collapsed.

"Only at that time did I realize the power of earthquake and felt scared," said the schoolboy.

Almost a quarter of Gansu, the second worst-hit province after Sichuan, was affected by the devastating quake, which killed at least 365 people in the province, according to provincial government figures.

The Chinese government has launched a nationwide campaign to honor child heroes who acted bravely after the massive May 12 earthquake.

Anyone below 18 years of age is eligible for nomination for the award, which has been organized by the Ministry of Education and the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Youth League among agencies.

Candidates are limited to youngsters from Sichuan, Gansu, Shaanxi and Chongqing, the worst-hit areas by the quake.

(Xinhua News Agency June 8, 2008)

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