Sunday, August 1, 2010

Week 9

The worst floods in a decade have hit Jilin province, and according to the English news sources, anywhere from 29 to 928 people have died and over a quarter million people have been evacuated. Several rural villages have been wiped out, destroying homes and crops, and carrying livestock down the Songhua River. Apparently, CCTV (the state-sponsored television network) has arrived in town and is reporting on the event, but they are not giving many numbers to prevent too much panic. I think the lack of information may have the opposite effect.

According to my sources at Bo Hua, the River is regulated by a series of dams, and the local mayors have been hotly debating how much water should hit their cities. The federal government stepped in to resolve the problem, sending troops from a nearby city to maintain order and care for refugees. They are opening dams, but because of fears about the increasing pressure, most of the bridges (all of the ones closest to us) will be off limits until August 3. Banks, post offices, and other government buildings are closed.

Still, we feel fairly insulated from the chaos. Limited language skills keep us from eavesdropping on the crowds that line the river each evening and listening to speculations about the long term impact on the region. Our location in the city is relatively high, and although the flooding has submerged all of the paths, parks, picnic grounds, and festival tents that we frequent along the Songhua River, it still has about 10 feet before it reaches street level in our section of town. As I sit on the 6th floor of the hospital, I can hear fireworks, announcing a new marriage, motorbikes scooting through the street, and the hospital staff conducting business as normal. Hospitals have been ordered not to perform surgeries because of concerns about the cleanliness of the water, but the inpatient and outpatient departments appear to be running smoothly. I am continuing to prepare a Power Point on the quality and cost-efficiencies of diabetes centers that I’ll be sharing with Jin Shu and the hospital planning/marketing department next week.

But I cannot stop thinking about all of the lives that have been ravaged over the past week. Families have not only lost all of their material possessions, their entire livelihoods have been destroyed. I cannot think of a single that I can do to help, except sending up a prayer for their safety and peace.