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Government Acts
Special> Aftermath of the Quake> Government Acts
UPDATED: May 16, 2008  
Premier Moves Chinese Amid Quake Effort
Within about 48 hours, he had paid whirlwind visits to almost all the worst-hit cities and towns including Dujiangyan, Deyang, Mianzhu, Mianyang, Beichuan and Wenchuan

Few things other than stories of victims rescued following China's most deadly earthquake in 32 years would touch the Chinese heart now. But the emotional Premier Wen Jiabao did.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao greets local people during an inspection in Muyu Township of Qingchuan County, one of the worst-hit area of Guangyuan City in southwest China's Sichuan Province, May 15, 2008. Wen is here to oversee rescue work and visit survivors. [Xinhua]

At www.tudou.com, China's YouTube-like site, a video titled "Dear Premier Wen, you moved China" is attracting hundreds of views. It's a compilation of scenes of Wen's visit to southwestern Sichuan Province, which was devastated by the most deadly earthquake in China since 1976.

Wynlxl, the netizen producer of the video, wrote a caption: "Our dear Premier Wen, you had a long day."

About two hours after the 7.8-magnitude earthquake jolted Wenchuan County in northwestern Sichuan, Wen was en route to the region by plane.

Within about 48 hours, he had paid whirlwind visits to almost all the worst-hit cities and towns including Dujiangyan, Deyang, Mianzhu, Mianyang, Beichuan and Wenchuan.

On Wednesday afternoon, half a day after the first soldiers reached the epicenter town, Yingxiu, he landed there by helicopter.


There were many moving moments widely discussed by ordinary Chinese. One was Wen caressing the cheek of a weeping girl in a factory, murmuring to her: "Don't cry. Food will be sent in a short time. Biscuits and milk powder will be sent, too." It touched many hearts.

Audiences saw a tearful Wen on TV as well. The premier wept as he watched rescuers try to get two children out of the shattered remains of a primary school in Dujiangyan.

Standing in rain showers, he yelled to the children through a crack: "I am grandpa Wen Jiabao. You will certainly pull through and be rescued."

On late Monday evening after hours of travel and work, as drizzle fell, Wen walked over mud and debris at a local hospital and middle school where patients and students were trapped under collapsed buildings.

"If only there is the slightest hope, we will spare no effort; if only there is one survivor in the debris, we will not give up," he said over the debris of the school building that buried more than 100 students.

To the bodies of victims temporarily placed on the school yard, Wen bowed three times as he had done at the funeral of three technicians who died while repairing damaged electricity transmission lines in the winter disaster early this year.

"Your pain is our pain. We are here to help you," he told the victims of Beichuan County.

In Yingxiu County, where 70 to 80 percent of buildings were toppled, rescue work has just started.

"The Communist Party of China Central Committee has not forgotten this place. We will try every method to save the injured," said Wen, reaching out to the victims who were waiting to be airlifted to hospitals as soon as he flew into the town by helicopter on Wednesday afternoon.

On the CCTV website, people created a forum called "Premier Wen, We love you."

Omgomg, a netizen, wrote in a post: "Premier Wen Jiabao always appears where he is most needed at the right time, raises public morale and assures us with confidence. How could we not love him?"


It was not the first time that Wen was seen at the front lines when the government was facing a challenge to lead a large part of the country through a disaster.

In 2003, he visited SARS wards when the government was working all out to control the epidemic; earlier this year, he trekked slippery roads to oversee relief work when half of the country struggled through the worst snow and ice storms in 50 years.

People expect Wen's emotional face as well as effective and steadfast actions.

Hours after the quake, a relief task force headed by Wen was pulled together on the plane to Chengdu, the Sichuan provincial capital.

"Confronted with the disaster, we need composure, confidence, courage and an effective command," he said, promising the country in front of the CCTV cameras that the government will lead the people to win the battle against the earthquake.

Wen made it very clear that the top task was to save lives, and he pressed officials and troops very hard to implement rescue work.

Three hours later, in a tent at Dujiangyan, Wen presided over another meeting of the relief task force. The first thing he ordered was to send rescuers into the isolated epicenter "by all means."

"The earlier, even a minute, we reach the quake-hit areas, the more lives we are able to save," he said.

He ordered that roads be cleared to the epicenter by Tuesday midnight.

The first group of 30 soldiers arrived at the epicenter town Yingxiu on foot on Tuesday afternoon and rescued 300 people by midnight.

More soldiers, doctors, rescue experts, engineers and volunteers were assembled in Sichuan and tons of bottled water, milk, instant noodles and other relief materials were trucked in and airdropped to the quake-hit areas.

From the big issues of restoring traffic flows and allocating troops to tiny things like milk powder for infants, Wen addressed them carefully at relief work meetings.

"The Chinese government acted really fast for disaster relief. It was beyond my expectations," said Tristan Lebraz, a reporter from French TV channel France 2, who covered the quake in Mianyang city in Sichuan.

Pan Guang, a research fellow at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said the government's response has been fast.

"It's not realistic to save every victim immediately after the quake, but judging from the speed and scale of the response, China has already created a nation-wide system to counter the disaster," he said.

(China Daily/Xinhua News Agency May 16, 2008)


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