Page last updated at 19:37 GMT, Sunday, 18 May 2008 20:37 UK

Earthquake survivors seek relief

By Michael Bristow
BBC News, Beichuan

Chen Yuhong from Beichuan, China,, after the earthquake
Chen Yuhong has returned to the rubble of Beichuan to see what is left

The small town of Beichuan is almost completely deserted. So few people remain that birds can be heard singing in the trees.

With their homes destroyed and nowhere to live, people have been evacuated to camps where they can receive food and shelter.

Residents were also moved because of fears that the local river - which has formed a lake behind fallen rocks - could burst through, engulfing the town.

Chen Yuhong is one of the few ordinary people left. He was also evacuated, but came back to look for what is left of his former belongings.

He was mostly looking for blankets and clothes to keep him warm at night.

"There were seven people in my family. Four of them died - my parents-in-law, my mother and my youngest son," said the driver as he stood outside his former home.

The 36-year-old was not just looking for his things. He was also waiting around to see if rescuers could free a labourer who had been working on his apartment when the earthquake struck.

Not giving up

Along the street from where Mr Chen was waiting, rescuers were busy on what used to be an office block. They were part of an earthquake rescue team from Shaanxi Province.

Three elderly men called Liu from Biechuan, China, after the earthquake
These three elderly men told the BBC they were searching for a relief camp

The team had located a survivor on Saturday and worked a whole day to free him.

"We're not going to give up just yet," said their leader, Liu Wangping, when asked when they would stop looking for survivors.

Just down the street, a group of men from nearby mountain villages were heading out of town. Ahead of them lay a bent bridge and a partially blocked tunnel.

They had come to Beichuan to collect supplies. Having got them, they were walking home. One man had a journey of 40km ahead of him.

Relief camp

As they were making their way out, three elderly men were walking slowly into town.

These men, all with the same surname, told the BBC it had taken them a day to get to Beichuan from their damaged village. They had managed to make the journey even though they are aged 70, 76 and 86.

"Our houses have collapsed and there is a threat of flooding, so we've been told to leave," said one of them, Liu Xianxin.

The elderly men were hoping to find a relief camp somewhere ahead.

Soldiers escorting a woman in distress after the earthquake in China
Survivors are being evacuated to camps providing food and shelter

One of those camps was being built in a village just south of Beichaun.

Farmers were quickly harvesting a rice crop, so a digger could flatten the field in preparation for a temporary village.

New arrivals will be housed in extra-strong tents, which are designed to last six months. They are fed by newly-installed electricity lines.

The man in charge of the operation said: "These shelters will satisfy the basic needs of people who have been left homeless."

Workers were hoping to complete the building work within just one day, so people could move in immediately.

It was just one example of how the Chinese government appears to be doing all it can to get help to those in need as quickly as possible.

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