May 22, 2008

Cornell Community Mourns Victims of Earthquake in China

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On May 16, members of the Cornell community including President David Skorton gathered in Sage Chapel for an evening of remembrance honoring those who died in China after a powerful earthquake occurred in the Sichuan province. The 7.9-magnitude earthquake that took place on May 12 has since left 51,000 people dead, nearly 300,000 injured and over 29,000 missing. According to the Associated Press, the disaster also left 5 million people homeless and destroyed more than 80 percent of the buildings in some remote towns and villages. In larger cities, entire apartment blocks collapsed or are now too dangerous to live in due to the severity of their damages.

“While we are sitting here, 27,000 people who are trapped in mounds of concrete, steel and earth are waiting for our help,” Shawn Kong grad. of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association said before the crowd. “ While we are sitting here, tens of thousands of families are crying over the loss of their husbands and wives, parents and children. While we are sitting here, millions of people who are standing on the ruins of their homes and are waiting for clean water, food and shelter.” [img_assist|nid=30481|title=A sea of lights|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]

The Chinese government has recently renewed an appeal for international aid, seeking more than 3 million tents for survivors of the earthquake who have been left without a home. They have already collected 400,000. Official estimates reveal that over 4,000 children have been orphaned in China since the disaster. The destruction of numerous schools and the deaths that have ensued as a result has incited public outcry over the quality of Chinese infrastructure.

According to the AP, a hand-painted banner strung across a roadway in Wufu town where 200 primary school students died as their school’s collapsing, reads: “The children did not die because of a natural disaster, they died because of a dangerous building.” Additionally, the collapse of a three-story high school in the town of Juyuan has also left 900 students buried and at least 50 dead.

So far, the American Red Cross has donated $10 million, and American companies operating in China have pledged more than $34 million to earthquake victims.[img_assist|nid=30479|title=Remembering|desc=Shawn Kong grad. speaks before the crowd at Sage Chapel.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]

“[The vigil] was a successful event where Cornellians united together to mourn the victims of the disaster,” said Kong, one of the organizers of the vigil. “We collected more than $3400 in 10 minutes.”

According to the University, Cornell enrolled 462 students from mainland China in 2007. They comprise the third-largest group of international students on campus.