Landslides After Quake Crush Towns, Roads The Chinese government set a target of three years to rebuild areas devastated by the earthquake. It will be quite a challenge: Whole villages, towns, even cities have been destroyed, including Yingxiu.
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Landslides After Quake Crush Towns, Roads

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Landslides After Quake Crush Towns, Roads

Landslides After Quake Crush Towns, Roads

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Noah Adams.

In China, construction cranes dominate the skyline. It's a country that knows how to build and build fast, those skills will be essential after last week's devastating earthquake. Today, China's government vowed to rebuild within three years.

My colleague, Melissa Block, headed up into the mountains today in the county of Wenchuan.

MELISSA BLOCK: We're driving toward the town of Yingxiu. We're going up twisting mountain road where huge boulders rolled down in rockslides. We've seen huge trucks that have been completely crushed, flipped over as if they were Tonka toys and cars that have been completely smashed by the rocks that flew off these mountains.

It's a long slow drive. And after the earthquake, these roads were so filled with boulders that rescue teams couldn't get through. Now the roads are mostly cleared, but still nervous-making.

The original road is completely buckled by the force of the earthquake. You can see the pavement split in two. And we're going on a little dirt diversion around the part that caved in.

And on every side, you see evidence of the landslides that tore down these mountains last week.

It's a very hazy day, so it's hard to see off into the distance, but all around us are mountains. And you can see, through the haze, where it should be green -it's brown, where huge landslides sheared away sides of those mountains.

(Soundbite of construction)

BLOCK: All along this road, we see Chinese soldiers in green camouflage uniforms. And we start to see bright patches of blue everywhere. These are government-issued tents with the Chinese characters for disaster relief printed in white.

(Soundbite of cars honking)

BLOCK: And another sign that life for some people is going on - a woman hanging laundry out on the clothes line next to her house in the middle of all of this destruction.

Unidentified Group: (Speaking foreign language)

BLOCK: We reached the end of the paved road. A policeman tells us, up ahead, the road is gone. So we turned down a steep dirt pass. It leads on to a bumpy, muddy road that work crews have carved into the bottom of the mountain so rescue teams could get in.

We're still trying to get to Yingxiu. We're told it's not too many miles ahead, maybe three or four miles ahead.

And soon, we see why the real road is closed. High above us, the elevated road has a long section that's gone. We drive by the missing section. It's maybe a hundred feet long. It's crashed to the ground far below in a mangled mass.

The supports for this elevated road - it's over our heads right now. These supports our twisted in very strange angles and there are big cracks in them. This whole structure must be very unstable - not a good feeling to be driving under it right now.

Okay, we've come to a sign that says Yingxiu Town. So this is where we've been trying to get all day. There are people from the Chongqing Disease Control Center walking into town ahead of us. We just passed a sign that said disinfection station. There's a middle school up to my left.

As in so many villages, Yingxiu's children paid a terrible price during the earthquake. Both this middle school and an elementary schools collapsed, killing hundreds of children. I find 76-year-old Zhang Jie Yu in her makeshift shelter along the dusty road. The family has lashed a few sheets to wooden poles and salvaged some tiny chairs and a desk from the school right behind them.

Ms. JIE YU ZHANG: (Through translator) Thank you very much for coming all this way and caring for us.

BLOCK: She tells me her 12-year-old granddaughter was crushed to death in her school.

Ms. ZHANG: (Speaking foreign language)

BLOCK: I can't let her go, the grandmother says. I raised her myself.

Ms. ZHANG: (Speaking foreign language)

BLOCK: She says, the night before her granddaughter died, she was clipping my fingernails for me. She was a very good student, always first in her class.

I asked Mrs. Zhang if she wants to stay in Yingxiu or leave.

Ms. ZHANG: (Speaking foreign language)

BLOCK: She says, I want to leave, but my husband is very stubborn and doesn't want to go. She says she wants the family to move away and settle somewhere better.

(Soundbite of footsteps)

BLOCK: I read that there were 10,000 people living here in Yingxiu before the earthquake, and that maybe just half of them survived, and when you look around, you hardly any residents at all. This town has been sucked of life. It looks like a ghost town. But this town is pretty much been wiped off the map. And the question for those who did survive now is: Where will they go?

As I leave Yingxiu. I meet Tang Ming, headed out of town. I asked him: Will you stay in your town? He flutters his hands quickly from side to side.

Mr. MING TANG: (Speaking foreign language)

BLOCK: No, he says, even walking on the soil in Yingxiu makes my heart tremble.

A little farther down the road, we stopped to listen to the sound of life and work resuming.

BLOCK: Seventy-one-year-old Xiao Yuan Ming is beating dried stalks of rapeseed with a bamboo thresher to shake the seeds loose. They'll be pressed to make canola oil. He just started back to work yesterday.

Mr. XIAO YUAN MING: (Speaking foreign language)

BLOCK: He says, I can't wait any longer - it's harvest time. I have to take care of the crops or they'll rot.

In Sichuan province - slowly, life goes on.

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