Friday, May 23, 2008

Earthquake in Chengdu

Here is the letter I sent out after the earthquake that affected our area.

Dear Family and Friends,

Thank you so much for your emails and phone calls we really appreciate you thought. I just wanted to make give everyone an update on our situation here in Chengdu. As many of you know on Monday we experienced a 7.9 earthquake just 60 miles north of here.

Angus and I were at our house on the 3rd floor. I was in our home office and Angus was taking a nap in his room. Gemma was at school and Jonny was at work. I was just sending my last email before heading to Gemma's school to play basketball with the high school girls when the wall of my office started to shake. My first thought was my ayi (helper) was really going to town with the cleaning, but then the bookcase on that wall started to shake. I then thought it was the construction next door, so I went to check on Angus. The house then started to shake and I realized it was an earthquake. I went and grabbed Angus who was still sleeping and my ayi and we laid on the floor next to Gemma's bed. The house was swaying back and forth and we could here things crashing from the other floors (we have a 4 story town home). I kept thinking the roof would definitely come down on us. My ayi kept praying and I just kept saying "please stop". After what seemed like an eternity, it stopped. I went to the window and say someone I knew and she told us to get out of the house. We went out to the main street in front of the compound and everyone was on the street dazed and confused. It was such a shock and none of us could believe what had just happened.

The phone lines were down, so I didn't know if Gemma and Jonny were ok. It took about a half an hour before I knew that the kids at the school were ok and another hour to find out Jonny was ok. Gemma returned home about an hour and a half after the earthquake. It was just stressful trying to decide what to do as the management office of our compound told us not to go back in our homes. We ended up in the common area of our compound and everyone started setting up camp. Jonny was finally reunited with us at 8 pm, which made me feel a whole lot better.

We slept outside on the Monday, which was fine. There were several aftershocks, but nothing huge. Everyone was extremely stressed and on high alert. The kids slept great, but of course we had a very restless night. Tuesday it started raining and continued on through the entire day and night. We decided to move back in the house and have slept in the doorway for the past two nights. We have been lucky to have lots of friends all around us and we have opened up our house to everyone. Our friends Ingrid and Paddy have friends visiting from Sweden and they are sleeping with us at the house until they can get a flight out of here on Saturday.

We have decided to stay in Chengdu for the time being. We will leave if there is an issue with water or food supply, but right now things are good. Jonny is busy getting the Intel site open and I am staying busy playing hostess at watching the kids. Gemma is going back to school tomorrow and thing that the worst of the aftershocks are over. Today I went to Metro, the Costco type grocery store here and ran into several of my friends. Everyone is pretty shaken up, but seems to be trying to get back to normal.

Please keep us in your thoughts and we will keep you posted. More importantly, please keep the Chinese people that are just north of us in your thoughts. There are many sad stories and there are so many children trapped in the rubble of their schools. If you are at all interested in giving aid to the people of this area, I can get donations to organizations that can directly help and not take your administrative fee off the top. We are willing to do it through our bank and eat the cost of the exchange rate and service charge.

Below is an article from the Omaha World Herald. They called me for a phone interview yesterday.
Look forward to seeing you in the summer!
Much Love,

Nebraska native, son 'rode it out' in China
BY CHRISTOPHER BURBACH AND LESLIE REED
WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITERS

As a Nebraska native in China, Kim Dallas didn't immediately think "earthquake" when the shaking and roar began in her home in the city of Chengdu, 60 miles from the epicenter of Monday's quake.
Maybe it was construction next door, she thought as she headed to check on her 3-year-old son, just down for his afternoon nap. The cause of the rumbling only dawned on Dallas as she reached little Angus' room.

"I realized it wasn't stopping; it was an earthquake," Dallas said by telephone Tuesday night, or this morning in China. "I grabbed my son and my helper. We lay down next to my daughter's bed, and we just rode it out."

Three frightening minutes that felt like hours followed. The house rocked back and forth. Crashing sounds came from other rooms. She thought the ceiling would fall. But it held.

An anxious 30 minutes passed until she learned that her daughter, Gemma, 6, was safe at school. Then another half-hour or so until word came her husband, Jonathan Dallas, was OK, too.

The family spent Monday night outdoors for fear of aftershocks; some strong ones, including a 6.0-magnitude tremor, hit Chengdu, the provincial capital. They slept little. Kim Dallas said they felt less jittery this morning as they banded with fellow expatriates. But they worried about people closer to the epicenter of the 7.9 magnitude quake.

"It's horrific what is happening up there, children smashed in schools," Dallas said. "They're trying to pull people from the rubble, and I'm so impressed with what the Chinese government is doing. But the roads are really bad into where some of the worst damage is."

Dallas, 38, graduated from Cedar Bluffs High School and the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Her parents, Steve and Kathryn Snelling, live in Woodcliff Lakes, near Fremont. Kim has lived in Chengdu for three years with her husband, construction manager for Intel's Chengdu operation.

Just before the quake, Kim Dallas had reached out to friends in Cambodia, hoping to aid relief work in Myanmar.

Dallas loves Chengdu. But she's looking forward to visiting Nebraska this summer.
Thirty University of Nebraska-Lincoln students also were in China when the quake struck. The students felt tremors in Xi'an, China, where they are participating in a four-week study program.
The epicenter was about 500 miles away. But it shook a small bridge and splashed water out of an ornamental pond at Xi'an Jiaotong University, where they were taking photographs.

In a cell phone interview at 4:30 a.m. today, China time, Kent Campbell, 22, of Lincoln said the Nebraskans didn't grasp the quake's scope when they first felt tremors about 2:30 p.m. Monday.
It was only later that the students realized the terrible scale of the damage, Campbell said.
"We thought it was something localized. . . . We didn't realize all the implications it had," he said.
None of the Nebraska students was injured. Chinese news reports indicated that 50 to 60 people died in Xi'an, a city of 6 million where the Xi'an Jiaotong University is located.

Peter Levitov, UNL's associate dean of international affairs, said there were no plans to cut short the Nebraska students' study program. They are scheduled to return to the U.S. on June 3.
Kim, Jonny, Gemma, and Angus

2 comments:

Edward Audi said...

I'm so glad to hear that you guys are ok! I was thinking about you when I found out where the quake occurred and wondering if you were still in the area. Take care and best of luck with everything. Hang in there!

Anonymous said...

That's a great interview. I bet you are loving being back in NE for a month. Love, Jill