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Tibetan Monks Relive Quake Rescue

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On a former horse-riding track in downtown Gyegu, the monks set up 200 tents before spreading out in the ruins to save lives.

On the first night, about 700 injured civilians stayed in the tents, along with more than 4,000 homeless who took shelter there against the biting cold, said Khenpo Konchok Thusang.

Without food or water, the monks worked in the ruins with their bare hands until all hours. They slept outside, wrapping themselves in their crimson ropes and holding each other to keep warm, he said.

"Many survivors were crying. Their relatives and friends were dead or missing. Our presence was a comfort to them," said Lozang Gyatso, 27.

Yushu is a predominately Tibetan region, with more than 90 percent of its 300,000 people devout Tibetan Buddhists. They trusted the monks and let them arrange funerals for their loved ones.

Khenpo Dampa Rinchen, a senior monk at Gyegu Monastery, said the monastery had cremated 2,100 quake victims. Most bodies were delivered to the monastery, the largest Tibetan Buddhist establishment in Gyegu.

"Buddhism teaches us that the greatest virtue is to help others. That's what we monks should do," Karma Namgyal said. "I am glad that I was involved in the quake relief and rescue efforts."

Khenpo Konchok Thusang said he was most impressed by the unity of the monks, soldiers, officials and civilians in the face of the disaster. "The strength of unity is remarkable and deserves admiration," he said.

Karma Namgyal said monastery authorities asked them to return April 21 when the focus shifted to rescuing property in the quake zone.

"It is inappropriate for us to be seen digging in the ruins for assets, and a large number of rescuers had arrived anyway," he said.

"On the way home, I dozed off in the truck from time to time. My dreams were all about Yushu," he said.

(Xinhua News Agency April 29, 2010)
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