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Chinese in San Francisco Anxious for Information

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Chinese in San Francisco Anxious for Information

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Chinese in San Francisco Anxious for Information

Chinese in San Francisco Anxious for Information

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San Francisco, home to the nation's largest Chinese-American community, has many close ties with the region devastated by this week's massive earthquake.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

The massive earthquake in China has had a big impact in San Francisco. The city is home to the nation's largest Chinese American community. Some people there are still trying to reach family and friends in areas where the quake hit.

And as NPR's Richard Gonzales reports, they're latching on to whatever information they can find.

RICHARD GONZALES: One of the largest Chinese dailies in the Bay Area is Qingdao. And its better headline on the 7.9 earthquake jumps off the page.

Professor DAVID LEE (San Francisco State University): And as you see from the paper, there are photos, and - of aid relief arriving, and then rows of dead bodies being laid out in the street.

GONZALES: David Lee teaches political science at San Francisco State University, and he's thrumming through news accounts of the destruction in Sichuan province.

Prof. LEE: And, I think people are just anxious to find out what's going on so they can assess the situation (unintelligible) what's needed, and can respond appropriately.

GONZALES: The Qingdao Daily(ph) also has a full-page ad soliciting donations. After the Asian tsunami in 2004, the paper helped to raise more than a million dollars. While hundreds of thousands of Chinese Americans live in the Bay Area, very few traced their roots back to Sichuan province in Southwest China. But David Lee's family is different. His wife has relatives in that region. It took them a full day to reach them by cell phone. Lee says, they're safe but have no access to water or electricity.

Prof. LEE: They are presently living out of a car because of concerns over the safety of their home. Many of the homes may have sustained structural damage, so people are hesitant to go back into their homes.

GONZALES: But many people still haven't heard from their loved ones. Silicon Valley Software Engineer Joey Pan has been trying to reach his best friend, Wei Lu(ph), a research specialist working with the region's famous giant pandas. A day before the quake, Lu had just arrived in Sichuan province, in the city about six miles from the epicenter.

Mr. JOEY PAN: I cannot contact him. And it seems all the communication channels are broken.

GONZALES: In the hours after the quake, Pan says he was frustrated by his inability to reach the Chinese Red Cross. That motivated him to help organize a Web page to solicit donations through the Silicon Valley Tsinghua Network. Thus far, Pan says, the group of Tsinghua University alumni has raised about $50,000.

Mr. PAN: I'm personally, very strongly - feel very strongly to do something to help the people. I want to do something. So, that's my major motivation, and it's also very personal.

GONZALES: News of the quake's aftermath has spread quickly through e-mails and blogs. Immediately after hearing news of the quake, Charles Mu jumped into action. He's the president of the Northern California Sichuan Folks Association, yet another organization raising money.

Mr. CHARLES MU (President, Northern Carolina Sichuan Folks Association): Oh, it's overwhelming. And like in the last couple of days my phones are jammed and calling and people are trying to find the way to donate, to send money back.

GONZALES: But Mu says after people called to donate, they often expressed frustration with how little they know about the safety and whereabouts of their loved ones in Sichuan.

Richard Gonzales, NPR News, San Francisco.

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