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A Trek to the Epicenter

Along Route 213: The injured were being carried out of disaster-hit areas to the main road between Dujiangyan and Wenchuan, waiting to be transported for treatment. [Photo by Luo Jian]

Foreword: As of midnight May 13th, there hadn't been any pictures sent back by the media from Wenchuan, the epicenter of the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that hit Sichuan on Monday. We had tried our best to push ahead to reach the place, but were finally impeded in Zipingpu Reservoir. In the process, we had trekked for over three hours to enter Route 213 from downtown Dujiangyan (another badly-hit area where hundreds of students died when a school collapsed). We took the Route and mountain trails in an attempt to bypass the blockage posed by landslides. Since leaving Beijing on Monday, we haven't stopped moving forward, despite many obstacles.

Field Journal: The EO's reporters have been trying to reach the epicenter of Monday's earthquake – Wenchuan, which had been cut off from outside communication due to landslides. Our reporters are among the earliest to close in on Wenchuan-- the other reporters are from state news agency Xinhua. Below is the live reporting from our reporters via phone on Tuesday.

Tuesday, May 13, 18:08
An injured man waiting by Route 213. [Photo by Luo Jian]

Our location now is Zipingpu Reservoir, about 30 kilometers away from Wenchuan. The road is completely blocked due to heavy rain and frequent landslides. We have seen vehicles that were smashed by fallen rocks parked by the roadside, but there appeared to be no casualties.

We can see cracks on the road surface here in Zipingpu Reservoir, and the balusters surrounding the dam have been ruined by the earthquake. There are dozens of army vehicles stranded here, and there are soldiers sitting inside.

There are dozens of speed boats in the reservoir but the strong flow and debris in the water seem to have prevented them from going forward.

But now we can see four of the speedboats setting out in the direction of Yingxiu (one of the most badly-hit areas of Wenchuan). We believe this is the team to explore ways to push ahead.

We have started our journey to the reservoir from Chengdu, taking the Cheng-Guan highway and headed north. On the way, we saw two helicopters, which failed to enter Wenchuan due to the thick fog. Virtually all residential buildings along the road have been ruined, but we have yet to ascertain the death toll or number of injured.  

All the way, we have seen many ambulances carrying the injured for treatment.

Traffic control has been imposed along the Cheng-Guan highway, and non-official vehicles are forbidden on the highway. A 25-year old Tibetan student named Zhuomamu has volunteered to guide us through the mountain routes on foot. In fact, there have been earthquake victims trekking out of nearby villages along the route we took to seek help.

Background: About Zipingpu Reservoir
Zipingpu is a large water irrigation and water supply project in northwest Dujiangyan. It is two kilometers away from the downtown and 40.5 kilometers from Chengdu.

link to more story and map on the dams, click here

Latest updates on Rescue Efforts
(as reported by official news agency Xinhua)

At 11:50 May 14th, a communication squad has successfully landed in the township of Wenchuan county.

By 8:00, May 14 , over 900 soldiers have arrived in Wenchuan by trekking. Another 1,000 soldiers are on the way there.

In the morning of May 14, 100 elite military personnel prepared to be airdropped into Wenchuan.

In the morning May 14, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao rushed down to Beichuan, the Qiang minority autonomous county and the worst-hit area in Mianyang city.

The Liberation Army has dispatched another 50 medical teams, comprising of 1,500 medical staff to Sichuan.

By 19:00, May 13, the death toll reached 12,012, 9,404 were buried under debris and 7,841 missing.

By May 13, the Chinese government has appropriated 860 million yuan for rescue efforts, according to the Ministry of Finance. 

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