Chinese Citizens Rush to Join Soldiers in Rescue Effort

Map of the earthquake's reach i i

Map of the earthquake's reach Alice Kreit/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Alice Kreit/NPR
Map of the earthquake's reach

The earthquake was felt as far away as Laos and Vietnam.

Alice Kreit/NPR

China has sent an additional 30,000 soldiers to Sichuan province, where thousands of people remain buried under rubble left by the May 12 earthquake. The fresh troops join the 130,000 military personel already on the scene.

Chinese officials say the death toll could top 50,000. They're also worried about the structural integrity of some 400 dams scattered through Sichuan.

NPR's Brendan Banaszak says he visited one dam where reports had gone out that 2,000 soldiers would soon be on the scene. When he reached the site, he was told that despite the presence of cracks, the dam had been built to withstand just such stresses. "They seemed to feel so strongly about it that the top of this dam was essentially being used as a staging area today," he says.

One person Banaszak met owns a computer company in Chengdu, the major city in Sichuan. The boss had given his 46 workers two weeks of vacation so they could volunteer in the rescue effort.

"Driving up and down the streets, the highways that connect Chengdu to the outlying towns, you'll see these convoys of cars going out," Banaszak says. "They have big red banners on them with characters saying, essentially, 'aid,' with the back of the car just stuffed with instant noodles and bottled water. People are really just sort of taking it upon themselves to go out and deliver these goods. I'm not quite certain how organized it is or where they're going, but people really seem to want to be out there doing something."

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