Driving Toward Destruction : Chengdu Diary Remote Sichuan Villages Agony
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Driving Toward Destruction

We came here for a long-planned week of programming about Chengdu and the challenges of daily life in today's China. The earthquake, of course, made us change plans. Yesterday, with Xiaoyu Xie, our Chengdu-born pianist who serves as our interpreter, and Art Silverman, my producer, I went toward the places that were most damaged by the earthquake, in the mountains northeast of Chengdu.

After about a hundred miles the expressway runs out, and you take a two-lane switchback road of hairpin turns, a road cut out of the rocky face of the mountainside.

On the steep mountain slopes above, there are narrow terraced fields where the people of these parts have planted crops for centuries. Every couple of hundred yards or less, the two lanes squeeze into one, and the cars and trucks negotiate the rocks on the road.

Some of the rocks are only the size of the baseballs - they probably fell from a crumbling section of the retaining wall that's supposed to keep the mountain on one side and the road on the other. Others are boulders the size of SUVs. They came crashing down the mountainside during the earthquake.

Sometimes, landing squarely on a house.

Sometimes leaving a huge pockmark on the mountain, or a descending scar of exposed earth.

In Sichuan, after the earthquake, some are dead and some are grieving. Many are injured, hungry or homeless, and many have homes in need of expensive repair.

And millions are left anxious by their brush this week with the violent, destructive power of the earth beneath their feet,

— Robert Siegel

Related story:

All Things Considered — May 13, 2008