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Page last updated at 05:28 GMT, Thursday, 12 June 2008 06:28 UK

Burning questions of quake bereaved

A month after a shattering earthquake struck China's Sichuan province, the BBC's Michael Bristow finds bereaved parents in the devastated town of Dujiangyan are still seeking answers.


In a tent, their possessions scattered around them, a couple sit looking at the last photograph taken of their 15-year-old son.

Guo Shiqiang and Fu Hongfang look at pictures of their son
Guo Jun's parents want an official explanation for why he died

With tears streaming down their faces, they remember how it was taken just a few months ago at nearby beauty spot, on a rare break from schoolwork.

This couple is just one of thousands that lost an only child in the earthquake that struck China's Sichuan province exactly one month ago.

They are grieving, but they are also angry. They want to know why so many schools collapsed during the quake.

Their son, Guo Jun, was one of hundreds who died when Juyuan Middle School fell down on 12 May.

As soon as he heard about the disaster, his father, Guo Shiqiang, rushed to the school to search for his son.

"I called my son's name, and I got many answers from the rubble," he said. "They were shouting, 'Daddy, I am here! Save me!'."

He managed to find his son and help pull him out, but Guo Jun died on the way to hospital.

Seeking answers

Later, a surviving classmate told Mr Guo what had happened when the magnitude-8 earthquake struck.

Guo Jun, who died in the earthquake
Guo Jun was one of hundreds of students killed at his school

"He told me they had no time to think. Everything just suddenly collapsed beneath them," the 43-year-old farmer said.

He and his 40-year-old wife, Fu Hongfang, are now living with eight other families in a tent that was previously used to grow mushrooms.

They have brought along everything they own - a double bed, a sofa, a fridge and clothes that are hung up on bamboo poles.

They are still in the early stages of shock and cannot sleep. They do not want to think about the future.

"Everything we did was for our son. We miss him very much," said Mr Guo.

But the couple are also angry. They want officials to tell them why the school seemed to collapse so easily.

Experts have already said the middle school, near the city of Dujiangyan, was not built properly.

"I just want them to give us a proper answer," said Mr Guo.

"If you have done something wrong, you have to admit it and correct it. Chairman Mao told us this."

'Powerless'

Mr Guo and other local parents complain the local government is dragging its heels over the investigation into the school's collapse.

The remains of Juyuan Middle School
Many believe shoddy construction led to schools collapsing

He believes local officials are corrupt and only Beijing can help.

"Why do government officials live well? Why are they able to drive cars and live in villas?" Mr Guo asks.

"We can all see what's happening. I think the central government ought to conduct a full investigation."

Like many ordinary people in China, Mr Guo believes politics is a game played by other, more powerful people.

He knows only too well that the voices of those with no power, no money and no connections are seldom heard.

"Look at the earthquake coverage on TV, there's nothing about us powerless people who have suffered," said Mr Guo.

"It's all fake," said his wife, pointing to the television.

The local government appears to be keeping a low profile. Officials declined to be interviewed by the BBC.

Mr Guo and his wife are determined, at least for the moment, to continue their fight for answers.

They, and other parents, have compiled a two-page list of all those who died in Guo Jun's third-floor classroom.

But they are not hopeful they will ever find out what they need to know.




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