Nation overcomes anger at Olympic torch protests to unite in wake of Sichuan quake Monday's earthquake has shocked the nation to its core, but has also unified it into helping the survivors. 'The disaster pulls everyone's heartstrings, and the Chinese nation has been united to cope with its common plight, extend help and pray for more people to survive,' Xinhua said in a commentary. It is a familiar scene: the people united when the country is in crisis. Just days ago, Chinese people were simmering with anger over the protests that dogged the Olympic torch relay in some western countries. They accused Tibetans of trying to split the nation, slammed foreign powers for attempting to hold China down, and blasted the foreign media for what it saw as biased reporting. But now the tone is markedly different. The nation is in mourning, and the people have set aside their differences and shown solidarity. The government is rushing aid to the earthquake zone in Aba prefecture , an ethnic Tibetan area where protests took place in March. It is accepting donations from foreign countries, including France, previously a target of the people's anger. Journalists from the west have access to the disaster zone, with state media even reporting their presence. On a popular computer instant-messaging tool, users have changed their signatures from the patriotic 'heart' (love) China of recent weeks to 'rainbow' China, sending prayers and blessings to earthquake victims. The tragedy has brought out the best in some people. Residents are donating money, blood and even shovels. Donations of money and goods reached 1.34 billion yuan (HK$1.49 billion) yesterday. The government also made a plea for everything from hammers to cranes, since many rescue workers are still using their bare hands to dig out survivors. More than a hundred Chengdu taxi drivers voluntarily drove to Dujiangyan , near the epicentre, to transport injured people back to hospital. Ordinary people are walking to the disaster zone, handing out food to people in need. The number of blood donors in Shanghai has quadrupled after an urgent notice seeking help. 'After I saw the sad news, I decided to donate blood. I can share their misery of losing homes and family members because I also come from a poor village,' said Peng Tingting, 18, from Anhui province . Among the heroes are the military and People's Armed Police, who until recently were enforcing security following anti-government protests in Tibet and other areas, including Sichuan province . 'People's Liberation Army uncle, with you here, I am no longer afraid,' state radio quoted a rescued schoolboy as telling a soldier. Following the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989, the military has sought to improve its image. Another natural disaster, the Yangtze River floods of 1998, helped in that regard after soldiers were mobilised for rescue work. But if there are heroes, then there are also villains. Police have warned of anonymous swindlers sending text messages pretending to be victims of the disaster and asking for money. 'Dad and mum, I am in the hospital due to the earthquake and in urgent need of money to pay medical fees,' reads one. Some are also asking why a seemingly disproportionate number of schools collapsed in the earthquake, questioning whether corrupt officials, sub-standard materials and negligence are to blame. Popular anger also found a visible target in CCTV reporter Xu Na , who broadcast what viewers thought to be inaccurate information from a Chengdu hotel that was not in the disaster zone. 'How can CCTV have these kinds of people? It's sad,' wrote one netizen. The government is trying to quash persistent claims that it had prior knowledge of the earthquake based on natural portents, dismissing them as superstition. 'Migrating toads might not be linked to an earthquake,' read a Xinhua headline accompanying an 'exclusive' interview with a seismologist. Internet postings claim tens of thousands of toads fled ahead of the disaster in Mianyang , near the epicentre. Police have detained or warned 17 people using the internet to spread earthquake-related rumours that had a 'negative impact', said the Ministry of Public Security, though it gave few details. The postings 'created scary stories, misled people and caused social instability'.