My friend Paul works in Chengdu (located only 60 miles from the epicentre in Wenchuan county) in the Sichuan province, and yesterday he sent an email saying he’s fine (thank god!). He also told me about the scenes going on down there.
When the earthquake hit, Paul was teaching in a classroom on the third floor of the English department. The ground shook very suddenly, and then began to rumble and sway violently. His students began to panic and scream, and he told them to stay clam, leave their belongings, and exit the building in an orderly fashion. As they walked down the hall to the stairwell, the ground continued shaking and debris from the ceilings began to fall. Everyone began to run and stampede towards the exits. They reached the outside of the building safely, at the same time as thousands of students could be seen pouring out of all of the classrooms. The school did not collapse, but the one of the laboratories (of the chemistry department) had caught fire during the quake so after a while, fire trucks arrived to put out the flames. An ambulance soon followed that went to help a teacher who had jumped from the third floor of her building in a state of panic during the quake. Paul later learned that she had fallen head first and died.
Many of the school’s buildings suffered severe damages from the earthquake so all classes have been cancelled for now. Paul describes the scene in Chengdu as a bit uneasy, due to the death toll steadily rising. However, he also said the government has been quick to respond to the emergency situation, especially in the more remote areas outside Chengdu that suffered the most from the quake.