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Wenchuan Earthquake Essay

While newspapers have largely followed instructions to concentrate on uplifting tales of rescue work since the earthquake, the internet has seen a wild variety of tales emerge.

It was internet sites that first reported the quake, and where some of the first pictures of collapsed schools were posted. Internet users have debated how to apportion blame for shoddy building work, as well as rallying praise for emergency services and politicians seen to have done a good job.

Other local officials have been vilified by name for a variety of offences, some relatively trivial, such as smiling too much during visits by their superiors.

Some plotlines have been wild, such as those which have discussed whether fortune-tellers could have foretold disaster, but few have hit upon such a sensitive topic as Mr Fan.

He was not the first to raise the issue. Many news reports have focused on stories of teachers putting children first, almost certainly representing the vast majority, such as that of another teacher, Tan Qianqiu, whose body was found shielding four of his pupils, all of them alive.

But some schools were uneasy that their teachers had a higher survival rate than pupils.

One such was Juyuan School, where hundreds of pupils died - parents say 500 to 700 though the official number is 278 out of 900 - but only six out of 80 teachers. Parents pointed out that teachers stood nearest the doors.

But Mr Fan went further, attempting to justify his abandonment of his pupils, who all survived the quake.

"I didn't cause the earthquake, so I have no reason to feel guilty," he said in an interview. "When I got back to the classroom, the students were all fine."

He also risked angering those closer to him, saying he would not have tried to save his own mother if she had been present, though he might have made an exception to his general rule for his one-year-old daughter.

He pointed out that education law does not demand that a teacher save his pupils during an earthquake.

"If every teacher was like Mr Tan, then we'd have no more heroes," he said. "I admire heroes like Mr. Tan, but I can't do that myself. I love my life more."

Now the head of the private school where Mr Fan worked is under pressure to fire the teacher, and publicly questioned Mr Fan's wisdom in being so frank. Running might be a normal reaction, he said, but talking about it afterwards was something else entirely.

One commentator in a state newspaper, the Shanghai Daily, described Mr Fan as a "courageous coward" for admitting what happened - but added that his courage was not sufficient to exonerate his cowardice.

Mr Fan may as he said have been trying to prick the hypocrisy of "insincere tears", the commentator said.

"Yes, there are insincere tears but you, Fan Meizhong, should have challenged hypocrisy with sincere tears," he wrote.

A 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck a remote, mountainous part of China’s southwestern province of Sichuan, killing 19 people, including six tourists, and injuring 247, the provincial government and official media said on Wednesday.

The quake hit a sparsely populated area 200 km (120 miles) northwest of the city of Guangyuan late on Tuesday at a depth of 10 km (6 miles), the U.S. Geological Survey said. It was also close to the Jiuzhaigou nature reserve, a tourist destination.

Sichuan is frequently struck by tremors. A huge quake there in May 2008 killed almost 70,000 people.

A separate quake with a magnitude of 6.6 struck a remote part of China’s far northwestern region of Xinjiang, more than 2,000 km (1,240 miles) away, on Wednesday morning, the Chinese earthquake administration said. The People’s Daily said 32 people had been injured in the mostly rural area.

The Sichuan government said rescuers were gradually evacuating tourists and residents who had been cut off by landslides.

Six tourists were among those killed, according to the official China News Service.

State television said 19 people had been killed, and that most of those injured were not seriously hurt.

The Sichuan government said that as many as 30,000 tourists had been evacuated from the quake zone, leading to traffic jams on the narrow roads.

A few dozen tourists were camped out at Jiuzhaigou airport, waiting for flights. The airport was open and beginning to evacuate people by air, state media said.

A traveller with a young daughter who gave his family name as Li said he was in his hotel when the earthquake hit.

“The walls and floor shook. Some things fell off the table,” he said.

Some people were injured in the hotel but most were fine.

“The rescue services showed up quickly and gave us water and things to eat,” Li said.

He was given priority to be evacuated as he was with a small child. “At first the road was blocked but they had cleared a lane this morning for ambulances.”

A French man and a Canadian woman suffered light injuries, Xinhua reported.

The Sichuan government said earlier fears that part of a hotel had collapsed were overblown, with only relatively minor damage and everyone evacuated safely.

The Sichuan earthquake administration, which also measured the quake at a magnitude of 7.0, said the epicentre of the tremor was in Ngawa prefecture, which is largely populated by ethnic Tibetans, many of whom are nomadic herders.

The area was rattled by a number of aftershocks on Wednesday.

Pictures on state-run social media sites showed some damage in Jiuzhaigou, with tiles having fallen from buildings and people gathering outdoors.

State television said electricity had now largely been restored to the affected areas and the military was also sending rescuers to help with relief efforts.

The Sichuan government said on one of its official social media sites that more than 38,000 tourists were currently visiting Jiuzhaigou.

Shaking was felt in the provincial capital, Chengdu, and as far away as Xian, home of the famous terracotta warrior figures, according to the government.

The Xinjiang quake’s epicentre was in Jinghe county, about 100 km (60 miles) from the border with Kazakhstan, where about 140,000 people live, according to Xinhua.

Residents several hundred kilometres away in Urumqi, and the cities of Karamay and Yining, felt strong tremors, Xinhua said. The jolt lasted about 20 seconds, it said.

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