Yaan earthquake

Volunteers rush to aid quake victims in Lushan but end up clogging roads

Students, white-collar workers from Chengdu hope to help but may hinder rescue work

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 April, 2013, 7:54am

Volunteers have rushed to the quake-hit county of Lushan to donate supplies, lend a helping hand and do whatever good they can, despite calls by authorities not to come.

Four students from Sichuan Agricultural University in Yaan hitchhiked their way to Longmen township by motorcycle to see what they could do to help.

"I felt bad that I did not volunteer five years ago when the May 12 earthquake struck," said Chen Chen , a second-year student in the university's physics department.

One 25-year-old man from Chengdu drove his car to the county, arriving on Saturday evening. Asked if he would return to Chengdu the next day to work, the man said: "No, I can always find a job."

But all many of the volunteers could do was help soldiers erect tents, because nobody could give them a job to do. Similarly, a dozen men from a Chengdu finance company arrived on Saturday afternoon and said they were ready to do anything organisers requested.

The county is packed with cars full of rations and water, and people are lining up to receive the food, often from vehicles embossed with company logos.

"We have five vans loaded with bottled water, crackers and instant noodles. They arrived in Lushan on Saturday evening," said Zeng Xiang, a manager from Zhicheng Road Rescue, a private company in Chengdu.

Even locals who were affected by the quake have come out to help those in greater need. Four construction site workers were cooking batches of porridge to give to the hungry.

"Around 400 people have eaten the porridge. It is very popular when all that everybody had was instant noodles," Liu Xiyi said.

Some 1,000 volunteers have registered in Lushan, many of them university students, but authorities were not welcoming unorganised volunteers.

The Sichuan transportation radio channel has repeatedly appealed for private cars to stay away from roads leading to Lushan.