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China, the most populous country and the second-largest economy in the world, is a vast, dynamic nation that continues to grow and evolve in the 21st century. In this, the latest entry in a semi-regular series on China, we find images of tremendous variety, including astronauts, nomadic herders, replica European villages, pole dancers, RV enthusiasts, traditional farmers, and inventors. This collection is only a small view of the people and places in China over the past several weeks. [47 photos]

Liu Yang, China's first female astronaut, waves during a departure ceremony at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, Gansu province, on June 16, 2012. China sent its first woman taikonaut into outer space this week, prompting a surge of national pride as the rising power takes its latest step towards putting a space station in orbit within the decade. Liu, a 33-year-old fighter pilot, joined two other taikonauts aboard the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft when it lifted off from a remote Gobi Desert launch site. (Reuters/Jason Lee)

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As China's population and economy continue to grow, the country is scrambling to solve challenges in housing, elder care, cultural and political institutions, the environment, and other areas of everyday life. Today's collection, a recent gathering of images from across the nation, covers a range of subjects from wheelchair dancers to bear bile farms, a monkey-controlled robot arm to a Tibetan exile protester who set himself on fire earlier today, and much more. [41 photos]

A woman and her son sit inside the capsule of an electric tricycle as they drive along a main road in central Beijing, on March 15, 2012. (Reuters/David Gray)

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Coal occupies a central position in modern human endeavors. Last year over 7000 megatons were mined worldwide. Powerful, yet dirty and dangerous, use of coal is expanding every year, with 2010 witnessing a production increase of 6.8%. Around 70 countries have recoverable reserves, which some estimates claim will last for over a hundred years at current production levels. Mining for coal is one of the world's most dangerous jobs. While deadliest in China, where thousands of miners die annually, the profession is still hazardous in the West and other regions as well. Our mining and use of coal accounts for a variety of environmental hazards, including the production of more CO2 than any other source. Other concerns include acid rain, groundwater contamination, respiratory issues, and the waste products which contain heavy metals. But our lives as lived today rely heavily on the combustible sedimentary rock. Over 40% of the world's electricity is generated by burning coal, more than from any other source. Chances are that a significant percentage of the electricity you're using to read this blog was generated by burning coal. Gathered here are images of coal extraction, transportation, and the impact on environment and society. The first eight photographs are by Getty photographer Daniel Berehulak, who documented the lives of miners in Jaintia Hills, India. -- Lane Turner (48 photos total)
22-year-old Shyam Rai from Nepal makes his way through tunnels inside of a coal mine 300 ft beneath the surface on April 13, 2011 near the village of Latyrke, in the district of Jaintia Hills, India. In the Jaintia hills, located in India's far northeast state of Meghalaya, miners descend to great depths on slippery, rickety wooden ladders. Children and adults squeeze into rat hole like tunnels in thousands of privately owned and unregulated mines, extracting coal with their hands or primitive tools and no safety equipment. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

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The United Nations estimates that in one week, on October 31, 2011, the world's population will reach 7 billion. Just 200 years ago, there were only 1 billion people on the planet, and over the next 150 years, that number grew to 3 billion. But in the past 50 years, the world's population has more than doubled, and it is projected to grow to 15 billion by the year 2100. As the UN points out, this increasing rate of change brings with it enormous challenges. Meeting the basic needs of so many will meaning growing, shipping, and distributing more food while providing more clean water, health care, and shelter -- all without inflicting too much further damage on our environment. [42 photos]

A baby gestures minutes after he was born inside the pediatric unit at hospital Escuela in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on October 21, 2011. According to Honduras' health authorities, about 220,000 babies are born in Honduras each year and the cost of having a baby delivered at the public hospital is $10. (Reuters/Edgard Garrido)

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A view shows the landslide-hit Zhouqu County of Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu Province, Gansu Province August 9, 2010.  REUTERS/Aly Song

“Zhouqu” in Tibetan means the Bailong River, which runs across the once peaceful county. Surrounded by hills, this small settlement was where just over one week ago, a landslide charged through the main street. 1100 people were killed and more than 600 remain missing – who are presumed dead.

Having returned from covering this disaster, I find it difficult to resume my normal life. I think back over the last 7 days, and I cannot stop feeling how similar the towns of Zhouqu and Beichuan are. (Beichuan was almost entirely destroyed during the 2008 earthquake that left more than 86,000 people dead, and over 12,000 missing). Both these towns are similar in the following respects: landform, residents, architecture, and the arrival of thousands of rescue workers and soldiers. I can say this, because I have now been in both places covering similar disasters. The only difference is, horribly and sadly, the number of victims.

Rescuers remove a victim from the debris in the landslide-hit Zhouqu County of Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu Province August 10, 2010.   REUTERS/Aly Song

ON THE WAY
As soon as I was told about the disaster on August 8, I began to search for the nearest airport to Zhouqu, of which there are four: Lanzhou in Gansu province, Xining in Qinghai province, Chengdu in Sichuan province and Xi’an in Shaanxi province.

Because the air tickets were in high demand, I couldn’t get to the nearest airport, but was able to get a flight to Xi’an. August 7 was my birthday, so half way to the airport I finished the other half of my birthday cake. In the mad rush to get ready, I had not eaten anything. After arriving in Xi’an, it took 14 hours by car and 2 more hours walking before I reached the mudslide at around 1 p.m. on August 9. However, it seemed that I wasn’t late at all. Most people were still wandering around puzzled and confused by what had just occurred.

AT THE SITE
With machines growling, people crying, shovels and rocks colliding, the sounds of chaos came from everywhere, echoing around the valley.

A man mourns his missing relatives in the landslide-hit Zhouqu County of Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu Province August 10, 2010.  REUTERS/Aly Song

Rescue troops in different colored uniforms moved in front of me, sirens blared from rescue vehicles, and thick dust blanketed everything that remained and that which was newly arrived – including myself and my cameras.

I stood at the site of the landslide, which was 3,000 meters long and 500 meters wide, consisting of mud and rocks. This massive amount of earth is what engulfed almost 2,000 people. I was shocked and could not believe what I was seeing. It took some time before I took my first picture.

I couldn’t see them, but in my heart I knew people were under the mud. I found myself not feeling as sad about the dead, but for those who had survived because I could see them in front of me – yelling, screaming and crying. I couldn’t imagine how hard it would be to move on after such an event. My eyes were wet with tears.

A woman mourns her missing relatives in the landslide-hit Zhouqu County of Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu Province August 10, 2010.  REUTERS/Aly Song

One of the moments I remember most was the scene of a family burning a packet of instant noodles as an offering to their relatives who had died. It made me realize that this offering, as small as it might be, was probably the only comfort this family could afford to offer their dead.

Instant noodles are burned as an offering to victims after a mudslide hit Zhouqu County of Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu Province August 12, 2010.  REUTERS/Aly Song

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