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Saturday, 25 October 2014

China quake man: I’m just lucky to be alive

A CUMBRIAN man caught up in China’s devastating earthquake says he is lucky to be alive.

Brian Proctor, owner of Whitehaven’s Chase Hotel, said he feared he may have been buried under a landslide as he tried to descend a mountain on foot amid terrifying aftershocks.

He was among a coach party that was escorted to safety by the Chinese Army after vehicles around them were crushed by giant boulders crashing to the ground from the force of the earthquake.

Brian, 61, said: “I thought, ‘Just please don’t let it happen again’.

“You are just thinking if anything happens it’s beyond our control because the mountain would have just crumbled down on top of us.

“We didn’t know what to do or what to expect having never been in that situation.

“I saw half a dozen birds fly into a tree and said. ‘Watch those birds, because if they stay in that tree we will be all right’.

“When we got to the bottom there was a great sense of relief as there was nothing around us that could fall on us. It was one of those lucky days.”

He managed to send a text message to worried friends back home, saying: “In middle of quake..OK...just... Brian.”

He was 10 days into touring part of China with a holiday group from the UK, visiting the Great Wall and seeing the Terracota Army.

He had one more day of his trip left and the group were off to visit a panda wildlife park when Monday’s earthquake struck.

He said: “Frankly a panda wasn’t worth all the hassle we went through.”

The party faced a treacherous scramble down the mountain for an hour followed by a further four hour trek through the darkness to reach the nearest civilisation.

He added: “Here we were like refugees walking down the road. I suppose the locals were surprised to see us – we were probably the only westerners they’ve ever seen walking in that part of the world because everyone else shoots past on coaches.”

Brian said he had been following news reports of the tragedy since arriving back home and feared the death toll of 22,000 could double due to mud slides caused by a torrential downpour of rain for 24 hours in the aftermath of the quake.

He added: “My heart goes out to the people over there – they lost everything. Life must be pretty miserable for them but they seem to take everything in their stride.”

Brian said that his near-death experience would not put him off visiting China again but said after his ordeal he was too tired to even have a drink to toast his safe return.

He added: “I got back home and went straight to bed. I had a damn good night’s sleep for the first time in four days.”

DCattanach@cngroup.co.uk

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