As villagers and suburban dwellers descended on the Chinese city of Chengdu to flee the death and destruction of a devastating 7.9 magnitude earthquake that flattened schools and homes, relief workers reported that such basic necessities as water bottles and blankets are going fast.
Resident Danny Yaakobi – who, with the help of Chabad-Lubavitch of Hong Kong, is organizing donations of clothes, money, food and other items – said that tent cities have popped up all over Chengdu’s streets. With aftershocks a constant worry, high-rise dwellers are afraid to return to their apartments.
“People are scared,” stated Yaakobi, an Israeli who has lived in Chengdu for more than six years. “They’re sleeping in tents, in their cars or under the sky.
“Our apartment is on the seventh floor,” he added. “And we really felt the quake. My wife kept saying, ‘It’s not stopping.’ I tried to calm her down, and we waited for it to end, but we couldn’t move. We were scared that if we moved, the building would collapse. So until yesterday night, we lived in our car.”
Rabbi Mordechai Avtzon, director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Hong Kong, wired much-needed funds to Yaakobi, a de facto leader of Chengdu’s 50-strong Jewish community, this week. The organization, which sent rabbinical students to lead Passover Seders there last month, launched an earthquake relief drive on its Web site, asking for a combined sum of 100,000 yuan, or about $14,000.
Avtzon said that when all is said and done, they might raise much more.
“One hospital in Chengdu turned to us yesterday to help us with basic equipment and medicine,” the rabbi said Thursday. “Whatever we raise will be a drop in the ocean compared to what the combined need in Sichuan Province is, but it will certainly make a difference.”
Living in Tents
A little girl looks out from her tent in downtown Chengdu, China, after a powerful 7.9 magnitude earthquake prompted residents of the city’s towers to move to the streets outside. (Photo: Bruce Lee)
Yaakobi, whose nephew and friend helped locate missing Israeli students Ma’ayan Segev and Anat Bilu, and three other Israeli backpackers, said that the sheer number of people in Chengdu is unfathomable.
“There are whole cities that were destroyed 15 kilometers away,” he said. “Many people were killed. The ones who survived have come here.
“A lot of the injured have been coming to the local hospitals,” he continued. “Tonight, we’re going to buy toys and treats and take them to the children there. There are a lot of children.”
Philip Greening-Jackson, a Jewish business professor in Dujiangyan, a city about 100 kilometers from Chengdu, used one word to describe the scene there: “Carnage.”
“It looks like the Blitz in the war,” said Greening-Jackson, a British citizen originally from Nottingham, England. “Thank G‑d there have been no fatalities in our school, but one of the hospitals in town was crushed.”
Life has turned primitive.
“We need diesel and water-purifying kits,” he said. “Tents would be good, as there are still big aftershocks. The water table has been clouded by the quake, and the pumps are struggling. We have to boil everything, as the sewage lines were probably damaged.”
The professor urged people throughout the world to go beyond sending money.
“Pray for us earnestly,” he said. “That is No. 1.”
To donate to the relief effort sponsored by Chabad-Lubavitch of Hong Kong, click here.