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Officials work hard to meet victims' needs
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Soldiers carry vegetables out of the logistics center in Dujiangyan city, Sichuan province, yesterday. Most of the relief goods are carried to the center from where they are dispatched to the worst-hit areas.

A soldier in a dirty, soaking wet uniform rushed into a logistics center in Dujiangyan yesterday afternoon, shouting: "Help! We need water and food!"

Within half an hour, a truck -load of bottled water and two trucks of food, including fresh cabbages and biscuits, were ready to leave the base for Yingxiu in Wenchuan county, the epicenter of the May 12 earthquake.

In Yingxiu, the soldier's comrade-in-arms were still busy rescuing survivors despite not having much food or water. "We must be quick. Time is life ," Jiang Ke, director of the logistics center, said.

The logistics center, set up on a drug factory compound in the suburbs of Dujiangyan, gets supplies such as bottled water, instant noodles, biscuits, milk and milk powder, clothes and tents.

Some of the goods are carried from Chengdu airport. Others are brought by trucks or even private cars from nearby provinces.

The center sends about 700 to 800 fully loaded trucks to Dujiangyan and nearby areas such as Wenchuan, Jiang said. The center does not have a large stock because most of the goods are dispatched as soon as they arrive. "Food items, tents and bottled water are needed the most," he said.

"Our priority is the homeless," Jiang said. But they are not allowed to enter the center directly for fear of causing chaos.

Instead, the center has asked local communities to report how much supplies are needed every day. The local communities can distribute the goods after they get them from the center.

Requests for supplies continued even while this correspondent was talking to Jiang. He slept for only two or three hours a night on the first three days after the quake. Things are getting better now, so he can sleep for three to four hours.

Niu Junjie, an army driver, who was about to leave for nearby areas to dispatch water, said he made four to five such trips a day.

"I returned from Saturday's shift at 3 am this morning. And my first trip today was at 8 am," said the resident of Liangshan in Sichuan province.

"We cannot complain because people are waiting for us."

The center also has health and quality control officials in order to ensure food safety.

But Wang Ding, a Chongqing municipality health official, said they could only conduct "visual inspections" such as checking the packaging and production dates.

"Given the huge amount of food products and the lack of proper testing equipment, it's almost impossible to test each batch thoroughly," Wang said.

But despite the officials' and workers' best efforts, the homeless still need more supplies.

"Food is okay, but one person gets only one bottle of water for the whole day. That can hardly quench our thirst, let alone be used for cooking or washing," said Wang Xiaoping, a Dujiangyan resident who lost her home in the quake.

"But we know the government is in a very difficult situation," Wang said.

(China Daily May 19, 2008)

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