By Wen Zhao
Published: 2008-05-19

Cover editorial, issue no. 368, May 19 2008
Translated by Ren Yujie
Original article: [Chinese]

Seventy-two hours have elapsed since the Wenchuan earthquake, and which means the window of opportunity for recovering survivors buried under debris has already passed. The National Earthquake Disaster Mitigation Command Headquarters estimated that ultimately, over 50 thousand people feared death in the earthquake. By 14:00 on May 18, a total of 32,476 people had been confirmed dead.

Today is the saddest day China has experienced in 30 years. It is the nation's "catastrophe day".

There was once a lively face behind each cold statistic. Every passing minute means another life might be lost. Today, our race against time goes on, even if there is only one chance in fifty thousand that we can make another rescue.

People's desire and will to live creates miracles. We believe that the breath of life is still there, waiting for some final light to fill the dark spaces under collapsed buildings. For them, we cannot give up. Today, we have more rescuers, more professional teams and tools. We know that there was no news from about ten villages or towns, and that we have not completely gotten through all roads in Wenchuan county.

We know that we may save more lives if we can just move one hour faster. Without medicine, food and water, survivors caught in disconnected regions will again be tested by death even though they escaped it initially during the earthquake.

Please remember this day, remember the lives behind those cold statistics, and those unforgettable smiles and tears even if miracles cease to occur. Please don't be grieved. We know a huge swathe of survivors still need to be settled, and countless injured need treatment and help. They need medicine, food and water. Innumerable orphans need a warm home and the aged need to be looked after. All of them are waiting for us.

We know secondary disasters may come in the wake of the earthquake. Besides the heavy rain, the temperature has risen in disaster areas. We must prevent the possibility of epidemics. We have no time to be sad, because we are inundated with work. We understand the difficulty of assuring that danger would not strike again in disaster areas or places where survivors are recovering.

We also need more open information. Although public opinion holds that the government has done well this time, it is only the beginning. Open information may make all of these operations more efficient, be it the supply of rescue materials or people's resettlement. At precisely this time the government should be more proactive. Better media reports can provide a stronger foundation for decision making, which are critical to the success of rescue operations.

We need more efficient dispatching and coordination, even though we are encouraged by this beginning. The reactions of various Ministries have been much faster than before. It may be the burden of responsibility cultivated by past disasters, which we have paid dearly for. When the earthquake happened, the reform of the State Council organs was still in progress, and the responsibilities of different branches of government were still not clear. How well the ministries cooperate with each other after the re-division of work is the key to whether those in disaster areas receive sufficient aid.

Life will go on, although we could not leave the grief in yesterday. We know the best way to grieve for the deceased is to give courage and confidence to those survived, to help them face the pressing matters of the moment, and make them feel loved, safe, and warm. These, after all, were the final prayer made by those who've already been taken by the disaster.