At 3 am on May 13, 2008, Wang Shengyue, exhausted and out of breath, arrived in Guangyuan with urgent news. An 8.0-magnitude earthquake had struck Sichuan province about 12 hours earlier and Wang had traveled 10 hours nonstop, walking and taking lifts on farmers' motorcycles.
Children undergo an earthquake drill on Wednesday at their primary school in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province. Schools, hospitals and government institutions have become more diligent about preparing for emergencies since the earthquake in Sichuan province three years ago.
He was a Party committee member in Qingchuan county, 120 km away, and he had been sent to report the disaster.
Zhang Zhirong, director of emergency response in Guangyuan, was with other leaders in the city government compound. Wang told them Qingchuan had suffered heavy losses, with many homes destroyed and people calling for help everywhere.
Zhang asked how many people had died but Wang did not know. "Then we asked Wang how many homes had collapsed, but he couldn't give us any figures. The county had lost touch with towns under its administration."
Providing disaster relief relies on information as much as tents and bottled water. Guangyuan had little of either. Much has changed in three years.
Before Wang arrived that early Tuesday, Zhang had heard from all of Guangyuan's counties and districts except Qingchuan, where telecommunication was lost. The city government had sent more than 400 people to the county in three groups - two on foot from the south and one by boat from the north - to find out what was going on, but they had not been able to call in with information.
Guangyuan recorded only 13 dead on the day of the earthquake. It sent rescue teams to Mianyang, a city within three hours' drive, where the damage was reported to be very serious. Later, as more information streamed in, the death toll for Guangyuan passed 4,850, far beyond the government's expectation.