22 hours ago
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
In the summer of 2005, Doreen and I traveled for a few weeks in Southwest China, including Sichuan, where there was a very large earthquake a few days ago. We spent most of our time on the Tibetean plateau in Qinghai, Gansu, and Northern Sichuan provinces. But toward the end of our trip we took a long bus ride from Northern Sichuan down to Chengdu, which is the capital of Sichuan and is in the central part of the province. This route took us right through the area near the epicenter of the earthquake.
I looked through the photos from the trip and found the picture shown above. I took this during the bus ride to Chengdu. There had been lots and lots of rain, and mud and rockslides closed the road at times leading to large delays. This picture was taken during one such delay, when almost everybody got out of their vehicles. In the distance along the road you can see some small wooden shacks. These were probably temporary housing for workers doing road construction.
The road, so far as I could tell, was the only even remotely major road heading north out of Chengdu. You can see from the picture that the road was built into a pretty steep hillside on which there had been considerable erosion. The road follows a river out of the mountains for most of its descent from the plateau. So it's easy to imagine all sorts of mudslides blocking the road, making it difficult to get resources from Chengdu north to the area that is hardest hit. There are also numerous tunnels through the mountains. Again, I could easily imagine that the tunnels were damaged in the earthquake.
Chengdu itself was a pretty nice city. It's huge--around ten million people--but it's surprisingly mellow for a city of this size. Doreen and I had a pleasant few days there. After a bunch of time on the road and some fairly primitive accomodations, it was nice to be at backpacker hotel with good showers and cold beer. We also saw many pandas at the zoo, which was very cool.
Anyway, the situation in Sichuan sounds horrible. There are lots of stuctures in China, especially outside of the cities, which appear to be rather poorly built. I'd guess that the cities and towns north of Chengdu suffered incredible damage.