Ya’an, Sichuan province, China
By Jason Lee
It was 8:02 am on April 20th, 2013, three weeks before the fifth anniversary of the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake which killed nearly 70,000 people, when another strong quake hit the city of Ya’an in the same province. More than 190 people died, 21 others are still missing, and more than 11,000 people have been injured.
I must admit when I first heard about the disaster, I was a little reluctant to cover it, hoping that this time it wouldn’t be very serious. The catastrophic images from five years ago were still lingering in my head. However, when the death toll started to climb, I quickly cleared my thoughts and got on the next flight to the quake zone.
I don’t want to use too many words to describe how much I overcame to get there because my difficulties mean nothing compared to every victim’s face I saw and every cry I heard on the way.
I want to write about something else that I witnessed there, something I believe is worse than the earthquake. This quake struck a mountainous area where most inhabitants are local farmers. I studied construction engineering in college and it didn’t take me long to notice that many houses in the area were constructed so poorly that they wouldn’t even be able to withstand a much smaller quake.
After taking some pictures of people crying in front of their destroyed houses, I stepped forward to interview them for the captions only to find out that many houses, even schools, were rebuilt after being damaged in the 2008 quake. I couldn’t believe how the lessons from what had happened had not been learned.