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Student experiences deadly quake

By David Sorensen

A fun trip of a lifetime to China for a recent graduate turned deadly serious when he was near the centre of an earthquake that rocked Sichuan Province on Monday.

Steven Bradley, 23, has been in China since April 21 as part of a long-planned vacation to celebrate the end of his business program.

“I was influenced by having been a conversation partner for several Chinese students and I was involved with international societies at MUN,” he told the Gazette via e-mail. “My best friend also lives in Chengdu and I wanted to visit with him.”

The first part of his tour included standard tourist stops like Disneyland in Hong Kong, the sites in and around Beijing including the Great Wall of China, and a climb up Hua Mountain in Xian.

His world literally turned upside-down when exchanging traveller’s cheques in downtown Chengdu.

“At first I was shocked,” he said. “It felt like the ground was crawling beneath my feet. Things around me started to topple and people were running and screaming. There was a flood of people into the street. I followed of course.

“When I made it to the centre of an intersection I stopped running and saw the chaos around me.”

Mr. Bradley said the streets were quickly filled with people, where he gazed in shock as windows shattered around him, roofs and the wall of a smaller building collapsed.

“Several people (were) being carried away by a van,” he said. “Many people had cuts and bruises on their faces and arms. I didn't get hurt myself but I had fallen over once when the first earthquake hit. I had seen one man particularly beaten up and later found out that he had jumped from a low window.”

The BBC reports that almost 1,000 people died in Chengdu, a city of about four million about 60 kilometres from the quake’s epicentre.

Things could have been worse. Mr. Bradley said he was supposed to be visiting Wenchuan – one of the worst-hit towns – when the 7.9 Richter scale earthquake hit, but decided against it at the last moment.

He said there were eight smaller aftershocks since the initial quake. The damage has killed thousands and injured as many as 100,000 people throughout Sichuan.

The Eastport native contacted his mother as soon as the quake occurred to put his family at ease before news of the catastrophe reached North America. If the airports re-open on time, Mr. Bradley said his plan is to return home May 21 and attend convocation where he will receive a bachelor of commerce (co-op) degree with a concentration in management information systems.

“I am determined to attend convocation,” he said. “After graduation, I will be actively seeking a job in management information systems if I have not already found one.”

And while he obviously never expected this life-changing experience when he first visited China, “I do not believe this will deter me from returning in the near future.”