Blast survivors recall explosion, and feel fortunate to still be alive
Sitting on a simple mattress on the floor, Jili Yigu was still in a panic while receiving a transfusion at a hospital in Xiangshui county, Jiangsu province, on Friday afternoon.
The 36-year-old thought he had been struck by thunder when he heard a big explosion in his sleep. He found himself buried by debris inside the collapsed building where he lived.
“I was on night shift and was sleeping. If it were not a single-floor building, I could have been dead,” he said in describing how he survived a blast at the chemical plant where he worked.
His desperate shouting, however, got no reply at all. With his left leg stuck in debris, Jili thought there was no hope of survival until his wife came to look for him after about two hours.
“My wife suddenly realized I could probably be buried after she managed to pull my brother and sister-in-law out of a collapsed workshop,” he said.
It was not easy to dig him out by hand, which took about 40 minutes. “I could have been killed if I had to stay in debris for another half an hour,” the man said.
Jili found it difficult to breath after getting out, but he still struggled to pull his three roommates out of the debris with the help of his wife and his brother. One of the roommates, however, died after being rushed to the hospital.
Broken glass was everywhere. “Without shoes, we all ran away with bare feet. There is still broken glass in the soles of our feet,” he said.
More than 150 injured people like Jili were receiving medical treatment at the Xiangshui People’s Hospital on Friday, according to a volunteer who came to assist the rescue efforts at the hospital. Many of the injured had to be accommodated in the corridor.
Huang Xiaofeng might have been one of the people closest to the explosion.
“Seeing a sea of fire when I was working in a workshop, I shouted to my colleges and told them to run. I ran for only about 70 meters when I was knocked down by the blast wave,” said the 45-year-old.
Huang woke up in hospital with some minor injures to his right hand and waist, and his hearing slightly damaged.
“I couldn’t believe I’d survived,” said the wheelchair-bound Huang.
Zhang Shouhu, who worked as a cook in a factory 5 kilometers away from the plant, was also injured. A piece of broken glass penetrated through his face and into his teeth.
“I just finished cutting up vegetables that I was going to cook and was having a rest when broken glass flew at me,” said the 47-year-old, who still had blood stains on his face and clothes. “I didn’t know what had happened, and only realized my face was bleeding.”