"It was a nightmare," says Li Yao's mom, 39, who lives with her family in Hongbai Township of Shifang City in the northern part of Sichuan province, one of the areas hit hardest in the 7.9-magnitude earthquake that has killed more than 32,000 and left some 5 million homeless.
Like every other day, 9-year-old Li Yao had gone to school with her friends after having lunch at home. Soon after the lesson started, they heard a low, rumbling noise, followed by massive shaking of the whole building. Li Yao rushed to the door, screaming with other children.
At that moment, Li Yao felt a big push by someone from behind her back. By the time she realized what was happening, she found herself lying in the courtyard on the ground floor. She had fallen from the third floor — the whole three-story school building collapsing into debris right behind her.
Li Yao was found in the debris by her parents, who survived and rushed from their ruined home to her school. Her clothes were covered in blood, but miraculously, she had only minor injuries, including scratches on the left side of her face and legs where she had landed.
Now homeless, Li Yao and her family huddled under a tree throughout the night. With darkness came a heavy rain. Survivors dug through the rubble of their collapsed houses, looking for missing family members.
Thinking of that horrible night, Li Yao's mom becomes visibly emotional. "I have never experienced such a dark night," she says. "The earth kept shaking; crying and shouting never stopped in the whole night."
There were more than 300 students in Li Yao's school. More than 200 were killed; some children are still missing.
What appeared after daybreak was even more devastating: Hongbai Township, once prosperous, was now ruined.
There was no water, electricity, or food. The local hospital was seriously damaged, as was the only highway leading out of town. Li Yao's family decided to journey on foot to seek help together with their relatives who also survived. Her parents covered her eyes as they passed by the tragic scenes of the disaster.
After two hours of hiking through the mud and rain, the exhausted family was picked up by a relief truck and finally taken to a temporary shelter.
>> Pray for children and families in China who have been affected by this deadly earthquake, and pray that aid agencies like World Vision would quickly acquire the resources they need to come to the assistance of those who have been left devastated by this disaster.
>> Donate now to help provide emergency relief to survivors of the recent earthquake in China. Your gift will help World Vision deliver life-saving assistance, including food, water, and shelter, to desperate children and families.
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