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Wednesday, May 14, 2008 - Page updated at 01:40 AM

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Families wait for news of quake victims in China

Associated Press Writer


Li Zhenhua sank to her knees in front of the police officers blocking one of the few roads leading to the earthquake's epicenter.

Holding her husband's ID card in her outstretched hands, Li bowed down and lowered her forehead to the ground in a desperate plea for help. He was working in Wenchuan when the 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck, and she has not heard from him since.

"I've begged and begged them to help me look for my husband," Li said, showing the ID card to a crowd of onlookers. "I can't go by myself because I've got a little baby and elderly parents here, so I can't leave."

"The government is doing nothing for us. The government won't help us," she said, over and over.

The crowd around Li, a housewife dressed in a black polyester sweater and matching pants, grew so large that police had to break it up to allow emergency and rescue vehicles to access the road, which winds through lush forested mountains to Wenchuan county.

Li is one of many desperate relatives waiting for news about family members who went missing after the devastating earthquake hit China on Monday. The few details trickling in from the earthquake's epicenter in Wenchuan county have not been hopeful.

Government officials told the official Xinhua News Agency that rescuers who hiked into the Wenchuan county town of Yingxiu on Wednesday found it "much worse than expected." Only 2,300 of the town's 10,000 residents had survived, and 1,000 of them were badly hurt.

Back in Dujiangyan, truck driver Lu Wei sat on a blue plastic stool in front a shuttered snack shop, whose facade had been reduced to a big pile of bricks and concrete. Munching on a package of spicy dried fish, he said he planned to walk the 50 miles to Wenchuan in his muddy black loafers.

"I have family and I have two parents living with us. I haven't heard a word from them since the earthquake. I keep hearing that Wenchuan has been flattened," he said, illustrating his comments by holding out his downturned hand and moving it from side to side.

Lu, 30, was in the Sichuan provincial capital of Chengdu and not with his family in Wenchuan when the earthquake sent buildings tumbling. He hasn't heard a word about his wife, parents and two young sons since.

"It's very possible that nothing is left there," he said somberly.

Police manning the roadblock were allowing in only rescue and police vehicles, though people on foot were allowed to pass.

"We haven't seen anyone come out, we've only seen people going in," Lu said.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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