Andrea Hsu

Meeting Survivors on the Road

Gui Xi village

Local people of the village of Gui Xi (g-way she) huddle under tarps either because their homes have been damaged, destroyed or they fear structural damage when after shocks occur. Photo by Art Silverman, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Photo by Art Silverman, NPR

Melissa Block and I have just returned from a trip northwards, toward Beichuan County, where there are reports of thousands dead and 80 percent of buildings toppled. We got as far as the village of Ganxi, which we reached after traveling into a mountainous area that looks beautifully serene, until you see the devastation — collapsed homes, huge boulders in the road, and families, on foot and in buses, emerging from some of the areas hardest hit by yesterday's earthquake.

damaged Sichuan house

Boulders shaken loose by the Sichuan earthquake damaged structures through the province. Photo by Art Silverman, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Photo by Art Silverman, NPR

The first person I spoke to was 14-year-old Zheng Mingzhong, who was balancing himself with a bamboo pole as he stood on one foot, his other foot swollen and blistered. When we approached him, he immediately broke into tears.

He was at home when the earthquake hit yesterday, when bricks came tumbling down. His father was away — at work at a coal mine in the mountains, and his two older brothers were away too, doing work in cities, the oldest one in Shanghai. He has not had contact with them.

dangerous Sichuan road

Cars have to navigate around debris on an already narrow road. Photo by Art Silverman, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Photo by Art Silverman, NPR

His mother died before he was four years old. He went to his grandmother's, and together, the two of them walked 3 or 4 hours, he thinks, to a town where he spent the night. Then this morning, he got on a motorcycle to Ganxi, where he hoped to find medical help. He did, from a local village doctor, who diagnosed him with a fracture.

We also spoke to 36-year-old Zhao Rong, who had walked 30 kilometers with four children — two of them hers, two others the children of a relative and a friend. She comes from the town of Chen Jiaba in Beichuan County, where she said everything was toppled. She believes that as many as one third of the 15,000 residents in her town may have perished. She said they had moved into the town so that their children could have a better education, and now, they've lost everything. She told us, we don't know where we're going, we'll just try to find a place to stop ... at this point, we're just trying to survive.

damaged Sichuan village

Gui Xi (g-way she) straddles a river on either side of a picturesque footbridge. Photo by Art Silverman, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Photo by Art Silverman, NPR

We've heard that yesterday, officials here did not realize the extent of the devastation in Beichuan County, which lies east of the epicenter, as much as 90 or 100 kilometers. But as we drove back to Chengdu, we passed many, many convoys of soldiers and what looked to be rescue supplies headed northwards.

We also heard that helicopter drops are planned.

Robert Siegel, producer Art Silverman, and our interpreter Xie Xiaoyu pushed about five kilometers further toward Beichuan County. They reached the village of Gui Xi (g-way she)

The magnitude of this disaster is overwhelming. I cannot even begin to imagine the suffering that is taking place as I type this. We hope to push further out tomorrow — though we also want to be able to come back to Chengdu to file our stories — so that you can hear these people's stories, in their own voices.

— Andrea Hsu

Listen to the story:

5/13/08 Morning Edition



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Can you perhaps get any information on what has happened to the Chengdu Social Welfare Institute and its children and staff? Many American parents have adopted babies from there and there is a cordial relationship between them and the very caring staff. My children were not babies there, but I have friends who I am sure who want to know if possible. Information on its location is below.
Thank you.
Chengdu Children's Welfare Institution
246 Ying Menkou Road
Chengdu, Sichuan Province
China 610036
The Institution is located on the southwest side of the main road heading northwest out of Chengdu, about 200 metres inside of the "flying road bridge" where the ring road crosses Ying Menkou Road.

Sent by Juliana McDonnell | 7:33 AM | 5-13-2008

An email from Jenny Bowen of Half the Sky:

Dear Friends,

We have received many emails and calls about the terrible earthquake that struck Sichuan and Chongqing yesterday. We have reached the three orphanages where Half the Sky operates programs: Chengdu, Chongqing and Yibin. All is well. At each place, the children were all evacuated until the tremors passed. The buildings suffered no great damage. And no child was injured.

We will reach out to other welfare institutions in the province today. Should we learn of any problems or earthquake-related needs, I'll post another note.

Some of you have also written regarding the EV71 hand-foot-mouth virus that has affected many, particularly young children, in several provinces. The orphanages are taking special precautions and no child in an institution has been reported infected. We are monitoring this also.

While Half the Sky exists first and foremost to provide nurturing care and education to orphaned children, we are pleased to be in a position to be the eyes and ears on the ground in China for all of you who have such concern for all aspects of the children's welfare. We are so grateful to
those of you who make our presence in China possible.

with love,

Jenny Bowen
Executive Director
Half the Sky Foundation

Half the Sky was created in order to enrich the lives and enhance the prospects for orphaned children in China. We establish and operate infant nurture and preschool programs, provide personalized learning for older children and establish loving permanent family care and guidance for children with disabilities. It is our goal to ensure that every orphaned child has a caring adult in her life and a chance at a bright future.

Sent by Alyson | 9:34 AM | 5-13-2008

What makes me the saddest is to see the pictures of those kids who perished or got injured seriously. I could not hold my tears for those kids. Many Chinese netters are asking why the first building to collapse were the school buildings.

Sent by jidian | 9:42 AM | 5-13-2008

I work for an adoption agency and we do have children at the Chengdu CWI that have families waiting to travel to adopt them. Please do let us know if you find out anything about them.
Thank you!

Sent by Betty | 10:24 AM | 5-13-2008

For the latest orphanage information this is a great website. They have also set up an earthquake fund to help orphanages and children.

Sent by Alyson | 10:52 AM | 5-13-2008

As with each evening, on my commute home, I listened to NPR, but yesterday I had a more personal connection than usual. Your reporting on the Chinese earth quake took me back to Chengdu and the surrounding area that I had just visited a few moths ago. I was there visiting a friend of mine from Chengdu. My heart felt heavy because I pictured the lovely mountain villages that I had visited in such despair and desperation. One thing that comforted me was that Robert Siegel and Melissa Block were there reporting on the situation. Just hearing their voices assured me that I would receive good unbiased reporting.

Sent by Tony Nalley | 10:59 AM | 5-13-2008

I have not seen any reports about Guangya Primary school outside of Dujianyan. I was a teacher there 10 years ago and I'm worried about the teachers, staff and students who were there.

Sent by Stephanie Baldwin | 11:02 AM | 5-13-2008

Thank you for your timely coverage. Could you tell us whether or not the giant pandas and their wonderful staff at Wolong and other nearby preserves are safe and have enough supplies? So far, press here is reporting that the Chinese Army troops who tried to hike to Wolong were turned back by the terrible weather conditions and fog. Tourists also reportedly were in the area and have not been seen yet.

I am so deeply saddened at the loss, especially that of the school children and their teachers. I am hoping that new laws and new enforcement will be sure that every school, every building, meets a code of handling an earthquake up to 8.2, as the current law apparently says 7.9 but these buildings collapsed. It is my hope that the Chinese government would let the many Tibetans here build in the way that they wish.

Sent by K. M. | 11:45 AM | 5-13-2008

u r doing an extremely amazing job of keeping us informed and what not! thank u ever so much!

Sent by sierra lynn | 11:57 AM | 5-13-2008

Thank you for providing reliable information. I taught conversational English for three weeks in An Shang Village in Shaanxi Province last September and I'm very concerned about how all the wonderful people who live there are doing. Also, I've been to Chengdu and Wolong and am very glad the pandas and staff are reported to be okay at both places.

Please stay safe as you travel around.

Sent by Cathy G. | 12:15 PM | 5-13-2008

I'm an American who used to live in Chengdu about 15 years ago (before the 2nd ring road was completed), and have visited numerous times since. Hearing and seeing your reports just breaks my heart because I still have a lot of friends there. I have very fond memories of Chengdu and its surroundings -- Dujiangyan, Emei Shan, Qingcheng Shan, Baoguangsi, etc... The people are some of the kindest and most genuine people I have ever met, and I pray for their safety.

I had been eagerly anticipating your reporting from Chengdu because it is such a special place to me, but also because I believe something very important is happening there. Chengdu, for whatever reason, has been blessed with progressive leadership that, while still authoritarian, have pulled off some of the most amazing local development you can find in the developing world.

Your reporting on the earthquake is important, if for no other reason than that China's official coverage will be limited and carefully scripted. However, please don't forget to cover the larger story. The earthquake will fade from memory in a few years, but what will we need to know about Chengdu 10 or 20 years from now?

Sent by Greg | 12:35 PM | 5-13-2008

To the All things considered NPR team, please stay safe and thank you for the great coverage on the ground.

Sent by Connie | 12:36 PM | 5-13-2008

China has the resources to deal with the earthquakes. It's too bad that these some of these posts are only concerned about the orphanages and not about all of people in the earthquake damaged Sichuan areas.

And that comment about Tibet is a cheap shot. Tibet has always been a part of China. The West can continue to distort this truth, and insist that China invade it in 1950. But Tibet has always been a part of China and it will always remain a part of China.

Sent by will | 1:19 PM | 5-13-2008

There are some World Heritage Sites that are in the quake zone. Has there been any information about Mount Qingcheng or the Dujiangyan Irrigation System? I was there a couple years ago and I worry about the monks and the surrounding community.

Mount Qingcheng is considered the birthplace of Taoism and the Dujiangyan Irrigation System still provides irrigation to the surrounding community.

Sent by Ziggy Nix | 1:38 PM | 5-13-2008

Hi folks,

Please try to keep your comments regarding earthquake-related blog posts on topic. If you want to debate the status of Tibet, I'd suggest taking the discussion to this post or others on the blog that have focused on that particularly subject. Feel free to review the blog's discussion guidelines if you have any questions. Thanks....

Sent by andy carvin, npr | 1:38 PM | 5-13-2008

For those who are concerned about the Giant Panda in Wolong Conservation, please rest assure they are fine! They have all be safely evacuated.

Sent by Wenyan Yuan | 1:39 PM | 5-13-2008

Wenyan Yuan: do you have any links to news sources talking about the status of the pandas? The last I saw from Xinhua and other news sources, pandas were confirmed safe at two other research centers, but there was no word on the Wolong pandas yet from mainstream media sources. The Shanghaist blog says they got an email from Pandas International saying that the pandas of Wolong were fine, while 20 people have died in the area. But that's the only reference I've seen about their status.

Sent by andy carvin, npr | 1:44 PM | 5-13-2008

I don't remember I ever became so emotional listening to NPR's coverage and reading your stories. Thanks NPR for showing us what defines fine journalism.

Sent by Matthew | 1:56 PM | 5-13-2008

To Carvin:
I can only find this link in Chinese

The link above talks specifically about the pandas in Wolong. The status of the rest of the Pandas are still to be confirmed.

Sent by Wenyan Yuan | 1:59 PM | 5-13-2008

to "will", please learn to be open-minded. People have different ways to express their concern and sympathy, but from all the posts here, all I can see are their good hearts. It is not a time to argue political views.
As a Chinese, I am familiar with many Americans who have adopted children from China. If you learn how much they love the kids and how many troubles they have gone through in the adoption process, you will know why some people care about the orphanages. This is just their first instinct. It is the human nature.
Thanks to NPR and all the people who pray for the victims and survivors in the earthquake.

Sent by Wei | 2:01 PM | 5-13-2008

I am from Chengdu and live in Boston now. Chengdu is my home town and I am deeply concerned about the situation after the terrible earthquake. After reading you guys' blogs, my heart was touched because of your nice words and your caring about my home town. Thank you all, particularly, Andrea, Melissa, Jenny and all of the friends who are working in the shattered land. Keep safe.

Sent by Charls Shen | 2:09 PM | 5-13-2008

To Andy Carvin,

Here is a brief translation for my earlier link:

We have about 1590 pandas in China. 75% of them are in Sichuan Province. 86 pandas within Wolong are safe and sound. The pandas in the wild are yet to be found. An emergency fund of 5 million Chinese Yuan has been set up to help protect the pandas.

As a Chinese, I thank you for your concern about the pandas.

Sent by Wenyan Yuan | 2:09 PM | 5-13-2008

If you can read Chinese and want to help, here is a link listing the ways we can help:

Sent by Tong | 2:18 PM | 5-13-2008

BBC is also reporting that the Wolong pandas are safe.

Sent by andy carvin, npr | 2:18 PM | 5-13-2008

I heard the broadcast last night on my way home from Melissa and I have never been touched so deeply. Thank you for making this more real to us in the states.

Sent by Robin | 2:50 PM | 5-13-2008

My heart breaks for the families of whose children died in the collapse of the middle school. Hearing your coverage is heart breaking, but so important to have this information. Please take some time to care for yourself so you can process the enormity of what you are seeing and describing.
I adopted my son who is deaf from China and the NYT had an article that reported that a school for deaf and handicaped children had collapsed in Dujiangyan County. If you hear anything of this school please let us know. amongst so much tragedy and grief thank you for sharing please let all those grieving in China know that they are in out thoughts and we grieve with them.

Sent by Sammie | 3:32 PM | 5-13-2008

As a single adoptive mom of three children from China, one of whom, adopted in 2000, is from Deyang (one of the towns hardest hit) I am thankful for whatever information comes through about the status of the children in the orphanages and schools. Thank you NPR. Stay safe.

Sent by Cornelia | 4:26 PM | 5-13-2008

China's giant pandas survive earthquake
By Emanuella Grinberg, CNN


Sent by Peter, OH | 4:29 PM | 5-13-2008

To all of our unknown friends in China:
Our hearts go out to you in your suffering.

Thank you Melissa, Robert, Andrea and the rest of the team. Please find out what those of us from the US can do to help.

Sent by Richard Harnack | 4:58 PM | 5-13-2008

I am interested in how text messaging, cell phones and the Internet are playing a role in this crisis. Please cover this in one of your reports. Keep up the good work!

Sent by ben huang | 6:11 PM | 5-13-2008

Dear NPR,

You guys are doing an exceptional job in the coverage of this disaster. Can you guys do a story on how the aid/donations from outside China are being put to work to help the victims? Maybe its too soon to do a story on that? That'd help people outside China see how their generosity it making a difference.

The blogsphere in the West is calling for help all over:

People in China should know that there is a great deal of goodwill around the world and they stand by them at this time of crisis.

Sent by the Chinese Century blog | 6:46 PM | 5-13-2008

I appreciate the NPR reporters who are risking their lives to cover the tragedy in my home country. I am not proud to say that I burst into tears when I saw those poor kids and when I saw tears in our Prime Minister's eyes because I am a man, not a woman and could not recall the last time I cried.
This is a tragic year for my country. From the severe snow storm in Feb. to Tibet riot which incurs twisted reporting by agencies like CNN which cause too much misunderstanding among western people. Now we are in earthquake. I really appreciate NRP who can report without bias and shows American people's care.

God Bless China, God Bless America!

Sent by Pei Wang | 7:07 PM | 5-13-2008

To Stephanie,

Although the City of Dujiangyan suffered huge loses, the Guangya School is still safe. I got this information from Chinese web sites.

Sent by Wei | 7:16 PM | 5-13-2008

Thank you for your coverage on this tragic quake. My husband's aunt was with the Wildlife Foundation tour to see the pandas and has not been heard from. We have been unable to find any news regarding the missing US tourists other than they haven't been found yet. Do you have any information regarding the missing tourists?

Sent by Lisa | 8:05 PM | 5-13-2008

Thank you for your excellent first-handed coverage. The earthquake is really devastating.
I know a lot of people are willing to help. Is it possible that you can add some links to Chinese Red Cross, or some other Charity NGOs? It will be really help.

Sent by Y Wu | 8:57 PM | 5-13-2008

Who says a picture is worth a thousand words? Melissa, Robert, Andrea and the team have done an outstanding job of painting a picture of the human side of the terrible situation in China with their words alone. Fantastic job.

Sent by Carl Silkett - Cleveland, TN | 9:49 PM | 5-13-2008

I really appreciated NPR's presence there to bring back the first hand report on the tragedies there. I heard it first on my commute to work and call my parent-in-laws in Chengdu immediately. Fortunately they are fine. Thanks for NPR and wish the crew the best for their rest of the trip.

Sent by J Su | 10:04 PM | 5-13-2008

How do the reporters keep themselves safe and able to function in such a tragedy? It's amazing how calm and professional they sound despite being in horrendous conditions surrounded by a tragic and extreme loss of life.

Sent by Christopher Allbright | 10:23 PM | 5-13-2008

Here is the link to Red Cross China: You can do online donations there. It has both Chinese and English versions.

Sent by Philip | 10:35 PM | 5-13-2008

My eyes were filled with tears when i lisented the voice of Melissa from "All Things Are Considered" yesterday evening when she described the damage of a school and the bodies of children on the ground.

Listen NPR news on the one-hour road everyday is part of my life. Sometimes i would like to stay inside the car in the parking lot until the news section is over. I like all the news from China, especially directly from NPR reporters.

Thank you so much and take care guys!

Sent by S. Wu | 10:41 PM | 5-13-2008

It broke my heart to listen to your report today on All Things Considered, and hear about the tragic situation of the woman you interviewed. She sounded so desperate and hurt, and I only pray that help will arrive soon for her and her family. Know that we are keeping you and the people of Sichuan in our thoughts and prayers.

Sent by Lynn | 11:38 PM | 5-13-2008

I just hope the local people can recover from this disaster as soon as possible.

Sent by Andy T | 1:26 AM | 5-14-2008

To Cornelia,

I am resident of Chengdu and visited Deyang orphanage yesterday afternoon only 24 hours after the earthquake. All the kids and staff of the orphanage are safe. They are camping out in the court yard under a big makeshift tent. The orphanage building has several minor cracks but structurally sound. Once after government inspection, they could move back in the building. This should happen in the next few days. There is no shortage of food or water in the city as well. The only utility that has not yet been restored was gas. Deyang's earthquake damage is very similar to that of Chengdu.

Sent by Bryan | 12:50 PM | 5-14-2008

Dear Mellisa and Robert,

Thank you for being there for the unfortunate victims. this evening on my way home I was listening to the sad story about a couple that lost their 2 yr old son and parents and tears came rolling down my cheeks. Please let the people know that our prayers are with them.

Take care!

Sent by Sushma Gujjar | 7:47 PM | 5-14-2008

To lisa,
all twelve american people in wolong is safe and no hurt at all.

Sent by chinese | 5:59 PM | 5-15-2008