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  Locals care for tourists  



The tour bus was passing by Maoxian county, Sichuan, when the earthquake hit on May 12. After fierce shaking from the tremors, a man surnamed Jiang and his wife came out of the bus. They were shocked by what they saw.

Boulders blocked the roads. Vehicles were smashed, bodies and the injured were everywhere.

Jiang filmed a clip with his video camera. In it, stones kept rolling down from the mountainside, and people were frantically running amid dust-filled air.

Then he spotted about 20 people clad in the attire of an ethnic minority group kneeling toward a mountain in the area. Jiang was told that small-scale landslides occurred often in those parts, so local inhabitants were praying for the mountain god to "calm down".

After the quake passed, more than 1,000 tourists flooded into Jiaoyuan, a village in Maoxian. The settlement of about 40 homes warmly accepted the travelers.

Villagers collected about 100 kg of rice from the ruins, set up shelters with plastic sheets, and shared their quilts and clothes with the strangers.

There were too many to feed, so villagers dug up unripe lettuce and mixed them with porridge. Every one could have, at most, one bowl of porridge each day.

The wide range in temperature in those parts made some tourists catch a cold, while others got dehydrated. Villagers had to set fires at night to keep everybody warm.

The tourists had to remain in the village for the next two days because the roads were still blocked.

The group soon ran out of food.

Leaders of the village gathered all its men and drew lots. About 20 men were assigned to carry rice from the nearby town of Maoxian.

"We wanted to go, too, but the villagers would not allow us," Jiang said. "There were aftershocks hitting all the time. At night, we could hear the rumble of stones rolling down from hills."

The male villagers, who were picked to bring back food supplies, took a whole day to travel the road, a journey that usually took only six hours. Falling boulders injured some of the men.

On May 15, the tourists decided to leave. They could not bear to bother the villagers further. They tried to give some money to their hosts, but were refused.

"We were so moved. We could not convince them to take our money," Jiang's wife Yuan said.

The Jiang couple and other tourists met quake rescuers after they left the village. On May 18, the couple finally arrived home in Qingdao, Shandong province.





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