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Silent suffering of quake victims

  • Story Highlights
  • In Che Jia Va, survivors of China's deadly earthquake wait patiently for aid
  • Despite a lack of basic necessities, most of the victims were uncomplaining
  • People wondering why government did warn them that quake was coming
  • They are glad to help journalists reporting the extent of the disaster
  • Next Article in World »
By CNN's John Vause
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CHE JIA VA, China (CNN) -- In Che Jia Va, survivors of the deadly earthquake that struck central China wait patiently for aid. They don't complain.

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CNN's John Vause has been in China reporting on the aftermath of the earthquake.

Among them is a woman with back injuries who cannot walk, and moans loudly. Soldiers eventually found the woman and took her away.

Sheets of plastic protected some of these victims from the rain that came down after the quake. But despite a lack of food, water, phone service and supplies, most of the victims were undemanding and uncomplaining -- some playing cards to pass the time -- confident they would be looked after.

The only complaint we heard was questioning why the government did not give a warning that the quake was coming, the way officials did in 1976, when an earthquake virtually destroyed the city of Tangshan, northeast of Beijing, killing at least 240,000 people.

Many of the people we ran into were still in shock. "It's horrible. There is devastation everywhere," one woman said.

There is a Chinese adage: "Eat bitterness." Or as Americans would say: "Grin and bear it." The Chinese we saw practice that well.

We've had some of the nicest people help us out. There was a guy who had a packet of cookies and wanted to share them, because we were reporting the quake story.

A woman at a gas station, which has a $13 limit per purchase, let us buy $100 worth for our two SUVs. She just came up and helped. There actually were soldiers at the gas stations to ration it out.

As my producer, Wen-Chun Fan, and I did our best to navigate around roads blocked by mudslides and chunks of debris, we saw the aftermath of Monday's 7.9-magnitude quake, the epicenter of which was about 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the city of Chengdu in Sichuan province.

The quake was so powerful that homes in Che Jia Va didn't simply collapse. They were smashed apart, and under some of the rubble are the people who once lived there.

Local officials say the focus now is not on finding the dead, but rescuing the living. Survivors huddle together in makeshift tents with nowhere to go. I wonder how structurally sound the remaining buildings are, and realize the impact of the quake will be felt for years. Video Watch Vause describes how aid is getting to China after the massive earthquake. »

Perhaps the most poignant experience came while we were talking to the local party secretary in Che Jia Va, who gave us directions and pointed out various landmarks -- all the while keeping a stoic face. The town was once home to 13,000 people, and 3,000 are still missing, he says.

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As he shows me the damage to his community, I ask how many have died. Tears flow down his cheeks, and he makes no effort to wipe them away. He says that as many as 500 are dead, including his parents, his wife and their two children.

In the midst of his anguish, there is a call over his radio. He's needed again, and he runs off -- with apologies -- to go back to work.

All About ChinaU.S. National Earthquake Information CenterDisaster Relief

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