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Stadium becomes tent city after China quake

  • Story Highlights
  • Chengdu Stadium now houses 8,000 people left homeless from quake
  • Conditions at camp are spartan -- it has no showers, but does have food
  • The refugees are just a small sampling of the five million people left homeless
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From Hugh Riminton
CNN
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CHENGDU, China (CNN) -- The cheers of fans usually echo through Chengdu Stadium, but they're nowhere to be heard.

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Earthquake survivors wait in line for food in a stadium on May 18, 2008 in Mianyan, Sichuan province.

Last week's massive earthquake in Sichuan province changed that.

Where athletes used to play, children dart in and out of tents housing 8,000 people who now call the stadium home. The quake refugees are just a small sampling of what China's State Council says are the five million people left homeless by the temblor.

The stadium's tent city represents the broken and battered families of southwestern China -- most grieving the loss of family, friends, jobs and homes. Many of them filtered into the provincial capital from surrounding mountains.

At one tent, a 64-year-old woman nurses a badly banged-up husband, while also mourning the loss of five family members.

"My two daughters died. My younger daughter's husband died. Our two grandchildren died," said Wu Shaoqing.

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"We lost our house. We don't even have clothes ... We have nothing now."

Wu said her husband only made it out because Chinese soldiers carried him across the mountains and into the capital.

His head and legs were hit by rubble. He hasn't stood in days.

"Why has such a tragedy hit my family?" she asks. "I can't bear to think about it anymore."

The conditions at the camp are spartan. iReport.com: Share your earthquake survival stories

It has no showers, but does have food. Orderly lines form for meals of instant noodles.

Elsewhere in the camp, Jiang Xianping will soon leave.

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The father of a nine-year-old boy plans to leave his son behind, taking a dangerous mountain trek to go back for his parents, who were too weak to come to Chengdu in the immediate aftermath of the quake.

There is food for them to find in the ruins of their community, he said, but after three days it will be gone.

"I have to go and settle them somehow," Jiang said Wednesday. "I'm leaving tomorrow."

Across the nation, politicians grapple with the big questions -- like what to do with hundreds of communities flattened by the 7.9-magnitude earthquake and whether they should even be rebuilt.

But there are other questions too.

Where will the children go to school?

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Where will the parents work?

And, how do you provide long-term shelter for millions of Chinese suddenly without homes?

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