A group of B.C. students caught up in a devastating earthquake in China have been evacuated from the area over fears of further quakes. The University of the Fraser Valley says 10 students and a faculty member who had just started their studies at Sichuan Normal University in Chengdu are now at another university in southern China.
“Our president made a decision that, given the instability in the region and the fact that these warnings were still happening, that the best decision would be just to get the students out,” said Kim Lawrence, a spokeswoman for the Abbotsford-based university. “On the Sunday we had notification that the government in China had issued a warning that there may be an additional quake and all the students were asked to leave the buildings on the campus at Sichuan Normal University and stay out of the sports fields until further notice.”
The May 12 quake killed more than 41,000 people and left another 32,000 missing. Officials expect the final death toll to exceed 50,000. Lawrence said the group was disappointed to leave but won’t forget their Chengdu colleagues.
“They are still in China, they are in Shenzhen, which is about 900 kilometres away, and I expect that they will be quite active supporting the Chengdu relief effort from there,” she said. “We are working with Shenzhen (Polytechnic University) quite closely to make sure that program structure emulates what they planned in Chengdu,” said Lawrence while confirming the group will complete its 10-week course of studies in Guangdong province. The families have been very supportive over the course of this and they are feeling great relief that the students are in an area that is safer. They are very tired. Sleeping outside in the middle of a field with tens of thousands of people can get to you after a while, so I think they realize that it was time.”
Schools in the earthquake zone began to open Wednesday in some of China’s newly formed tent cities, where the government is struggling to provide shelter for many of the five million people left homeless in last week’s earthquake.
An official said it was important for children to return to their established routines of school and play to help overcome the trauma of loss. “The most important thing is to return some semblance of normalcy to the kids’ lives,” said Zhu Jiang, a Chengdu city official who acts as spokesman for the camp. “We don’t want them to feel like they’re refugees, but like they’ve simply moved to another place for a sort of extended holiday.”
Compounding the misery for those left homeless in the disaster, rain was forecast for parts of Sichuan province.
The government has already issued an urgent appeal for tents and brought in the first foreign teams of doctors and field hospitals, some of whom were swapping out with overseas search and rescue specialists.
The earthquake was China’s worst disaster in three decades.
-with a report from CP