Page last updated at 15:47 GMT, Sunday, 1 June 2008 16:47 UK

Grief and anger at quake school memorial


Families mourn children who died in the earthquake

By James Reynolds
BBC News, Dujiangyan

"We've come back to the place where you were buried," a mother cries into a microphone. "You are all gone. How can we live on? You've taken away all our hopes and dreams."

On Sunday morning, hundreds of parents came to a memorial held at the remains of the Xinjian primary school in Dujiangyan, southern China. More than 230 children were killed in their classrooms when the earthquake happened.

The parents' grief is made worse by what they can see all around them. The buildings surrounding the school - a hotel and several apartment blocks - are all still standing. Some are barely even cracked.

Fu Xue Zhong
This was 20% natural disaster, 80% man-made disaster
Fu Xue Zhong
Bereaved parent
But their children's primary school came down in the earthquake. Parents believe it fell down because it simply wasn't built properly.

"You were wrongfully killed," one mother says to her dead child.

Another woman sits on a chair, almost unable to breathe with emotion.

"A few years ago we tried to raise money to rebuild the school," she sobs. "But the school didn't agree. And now my daughter has died."

The parents stand in rows in the school playground. Each holds up a framed picture of his or her child. They all wear white T-shirts with these words written in red: "Punish the corrupt people who put up this flimsy building."

The parents wait to be called onto the rubble - the remains of the classrooms in which their children died. They step forward, and bow three times. Many light candles and incense. Almost everyone cries and sobs. Some even throw up. Others collapse and have to be carried away.

BBC Beijing correspondent James Reynolds
I've never seen anything approaching the grief I witnessed during this service - and that includes the first few days after the earthquake
The BBC's James Reynolds

"Why didn't you run, my son? Why didn't you run?" one mother says again and again.

Another mother crouches down and sobs quietly. "We couldn't save you," she says. "I'm so sorry."

Fu Xue Zhong addresses his son Fu Tian, who was 12: "In all this rubble I don't know exactly where you died. So I lay down this flower for you. Son, I will love you forever."

He tells us: "This was 20% natural disaster, 80% man-made disaster. Why didn't all these other buildings collapse? Only this one fell down. We are determined to fight for justice for our kids. We will never give up. We have to get justice."

The government has promised these parents - and thousands more - that it will punish those who didn't keep their children safe. The parents will hold the government to its word. For them, nothing else matters.

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