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Page last updated at 12:15 GMT, Tuesday, 13 May 2008 13:15 UK

Eyewitness: 'Constant aftershocks'

After a powerful earthquake struck south-western China, people in the region describe their experiences of the quake and the continuing aftershocks.

MAGGIE LI, STUDENT, CHENGDU

I have to say that this was one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at a school in Dujiangyan on 12 May 2008
Dujiangyan was particularly badly hit by the earthquake
The strength and the unity shown by the local people is really touching.

Yesterday when I was sitting in my office it seemed that suddenly there was a monster rocking from beneath the earth. The lights started to dangle around, things in front of me start to appear like a blurry image.

The paint on the walls started to peel down in flakes. Since I have experienced an earthquake before, I knew this was one and I could tell that we were not at the epicentre.

I didn't respond immediately and sat there with my student facing me - not saying anything. I was only hoping that the quake would be over soon. But it got worse.

I had to make a move. I walked unsteadily towards the window and looked out.

People appeared to be anxious, but they didn't panic.

Later communications with the outside world was cut off. We couldn't communicate using mobiles, and we couldn't go online either.

The ground beneath my feet is not solid, so to speak, but I can feel the solidarity that connects people together
Maggie Li

People who owned cars parked them at strategic places and turned up their radio speakers so people who felt anxious not knowing the most up-to-date news could at least got some understanding of what was going on.

Last night people were camping on the streets to avoid aftershocks. Some of my colleagues have slept in their cars.

People started to text each other and comfort each other, some people text the radio presenters so that others would know about the current situations in different parts of the city.

Queues started to build up in front of the blood donation centres.

Some people used very simple words to express themselves: 'Since we don't have a lot of money to give, we can at least donate our blood to help others.'

The Chinese government was also very quick to react. Some people have been made sick by the aftershocks. Emergency medical cubicles have been set up on buses, in which sick people can get some injections and medical care.

I still feel aftershocks every 10-15 minutes. I don't feel afraid. The ground beneath my feet is not solid, so to speak, but I can feel the solidarity that connects people together.

The helicopters are hovering overhead occasionally. The radio presenters' voices have become hoarse because they have been talking for a long time ever since we were rocked by the earthquake.

They are saying: 'Don't panic, we are together.'

RAINBOW ZHU, BEAR RESCUE CENTRE WORKER, NORTH OF CHENGDU

I have been moved to Chengdu because the aftershocks were continuing and not all the buildings at the bear rescue centre could be considered totally safe.

Essential veterinary and other staff have stayed with the animals.

Things appear to be getting back to normal now here. People are nervous and the aftershocks are a constant reminder. Occasionally you get bigger ones and things really get shaky.

We have to be ready to leave our house at any moment.

Two of our security guards have family in northern Sichuan province and they have no contact with them - they are really very worried.

When the earthquake struck the bears ran around in their enclosure - this is what happens when they are scared.

GAODONG, STUDENT, LESHAN

During the earthquake, everything shook, objects fell over. It was terrifying.

Some of my fellow students are from the countryside. Their houses have been badly hit by the earthquake
Gaodong
There are 3,000 students in my school, and we were all evacuated to a football pitch. No one was hurt. I think the party and government have responded very promptly to the earthquake, especially Premier Wen Jiabao, who came so quickly to Sichuan.

Chinese people don't worship the [Communist] Party as they did in Chairman Mao's time, but in this case I think they are handling the crisis very well.

Our school windows were broken by the earthquake shocks. Our school is new - it was only built three years ago.

But no students were hurt. Most of us are at home following government advice.

Earthquakes here are very rare - this is why we were so scared.

Some of my fellow students are from the countryside. Their houses have been badly hit by the earthquake. Some of them are staying in our school - it is safer than their homes.




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