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Quake in China Leaves Behind Thousands of Orphans

  • Jamila Trindle

The earthquake in southwestern China displaced five million people, and many families were separated, leaving parents and children still looking for their loved ones. In the chaos, there has been a special outpouring of concern for the thousands of children who may have been orphaned. Jamila Trindle reports from Jiuzhou stadium in Mianyang, Sichuan Province.

Tens of thousands of refugees now live around this stadium - their homes were destroyed in the earthquake.

Names ring out on the loudspeaker of people who are still missing.

Many of the homeless are children who have gotten separated from their parents. Their big concern is who will take care of them in the days to come, especially if it turns out that their parents are among the tens of thousands killed by the quake.

The Chinese government already is working to sign people who may want adopt some of those orphans.

Ms. Wang sits at a table outside the stadium. Her job is to let the public know about the adoption law. She says that if there are orphans we will follow the China adoption law. They will be adopted through that procedure.

Wang says she stopped allowing people to sign up to adopt orphans after the list neared two thousand people. State news agencies say thousands more people across China also have expressed interest.

At this camp, even quake victims, such as Zhu Yao Bing, line up to see if they can register.

Zhu says she wants to do what she can to help the orphans, because her family is doing better than many.

Zhu says they lost they house, they lost everything. But they can go out and find work because they still have our health, so they can support a family. At least, she says, they are safe.

She is indeed safe, but like many others here, she is still desperately searching. She thinks her nephew might have been in Beichuan when the earthquake struck earlier on May 12th. That town, near the quake's epicenter, is one of the most devastated areas.

She asks, if anyone has news about Lu Gui Jun, to tell him to contact his little sister's husband in Anshan.

Unable to find her nephew, Zhu looks for a way to be useful to others. She has asked the adoption official if she could take care of a child who is still looking for his parents, just to give him the warmth of a home for now.

For now, though, adoption officials are keeping unaccompanied children inside the gymnasium, to keep them safe while they search for their parents. After two months, any children who have not found their parents or other relatives will be registered as orphans.

Until then, there is still hope. One 16-year-old girl was not with her parents when the earthquake struck, but says it is possible they passed each other on the road. She says her parents had migrated out of the area to work, so maybe they have gone back home to look for her family, but they had already left the area.

Now she hopes their paths will cross here, in Mianyang.

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