May 20, 2008 / 1:07 PM / 11 years ago

Chinese workers in quake rescue after cliff ordeal

SHIFANG/CHENGDU, China (Reuters) - More than eight days after the devastating earthquake in southwestern China, around 10 workers were rescued on Tuesday from a remote mountain cliff where they had been trapped by fallen boulders.

Nearly 40 of their colleagues with the telecommunications company were killed, but the rescued workers said others were still alive on the mountain.

“Please tell everyone to press on with the rescue. People are still alive and they are waiting. They must be saved. We are talking about lives,” said Li Tengchang, 38, his voice shaking with emotion.

Li and the rest of the survivors were winched to safety by helicopter on Tuesday and rushed to the West China Hospital in Chengdu, the provincial capital of Sichuan.

The workers were building an electricity generation station on a mountain near Shifang town when the 7.9 magnitude quake struck on May 12.

“We survived on rain water and 20 kg of rice between us. We had a little radio and we heard how catastrophic this earthquake was,” Li said.

“When the wait wore on, we thought no one would come save us and we would probably die,” said Li, who was being treated for kidney damage.

“I survived purely on my will. I told myself I had to live and I had to survive. I have a 60-year-old mother, a wife and two young children,” said the father of two.

One of the workers managed to scramble down the mountain.

“He got out and risked his life going down the mountain to tell the company about the rest of us being trapped in the mountain. But our company never came for us, it left us for dead,” he said. A few of his colleagues nodded in agreement.

“We were waiting and waiting every single second, and nothing. The company only sent a helicopter when our relatives pressured them to do something,” said Li, holding back tears.

The quake struck a mountainous region in China and many of the affected villages are very remote. Survivors in places where rescuers have been able to reach say no help has reached some of the more remote villages.

But the state Xinhua news agency quoted a military source as saying rescuers had reached all the villages and towns in Sichuan province by Tuesday evening.

One village remained completely out reach, said Liu Xiaogang, a survivor and volunteer with the Red Cross in Deyang.

“Wangjiakou village was in a deep valley between two mountains and a lot of locals would go there for holiday. It was a very beautiful spot. But after the quake, the two mountains merged and the valley has just disappeared,” said Liu.

“The whole landscape just changed and it’s not even possible to get to the valley anymore. No rescuer was able to make it there.”

Editing by Jeremy Laurence and Valerie Lee

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