Wyatt Olson, a friend and former colleague who left New Times to teach journalism at Shantou University in China, is back on the reporting trail, following the horrific earthquakes (death toll 40,000 and rising). He trekked with a student to the Sichuan territory, where the brunt of the damage has occurred. Here's what he wrote me this morning:
I'm typing this in a hotel in Chengdu, the provincial capital of Sichuan. We started out as a full hotel this afternoon, all eight floors, but then some jackass TV station 'predicted' that an aftershock will hit here tonight. The staff was banging on everyone's door and telling them they should get out. So everyone has gone out to sleep on the sidewalks or wherever they're not under concrete. Scientifically speaking, one can't predict the time of aftershocks. So I'm going down with the ship.
I live far from the quake, but after talking with one of our former teachers, who used to be a NYTimes photog, she got my blood boiling, so I pressed one of the senior journalism students who's from here to go with me on a reporting trip. It's been pretty unpredictable. On Sunday we made a long, wild (and fairly expensive) trip into the main quake zone, which took quite a bit of skirting of blockades. But when you offer a taxi driver here 1,000 RMB, he'll do his damndest to get paid. Attached is a picture I took from one mode of transportation we took, a dump truck. People hailed it down and climbed into the back. Then it weaved through the steep mountains that had poured down boulders the size of SUVs and trailer homes.
I spent most of today in an orthopedic ward in the Third People's Hospital of Chengdu, where every manner of broken bone was present. The story a 16-year-boy told almost made me lose it as he told about a school wall collapsing on his leg, which literally crushed it off of his body and apparently sealed the artery. He was in one of the two schools that were in the headlines last week. I should have a story in www.feer.com pretty soon. No, that's not a horror site, it's the Far East Economic Journal, where many ex-New Timers end up.
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His report is now up on the Far East Economic Journal site and you can read it here.