Country Sacrifices To Help Victims

DUJIANGYAN, China -- The hairdryers, brushes and shampoo Lang Guanghong unloads from the back of his van each morning aren't standard disaster relief tools.

The 22-year-old hair stylist wanted to help when his hometown was hit by China's deadliest earthquake in decades, which officials say may have killed 50,000 people. But relief teams were calling for help from experts only.

So Lang thought of a way to put his skills to use.

"The weather is hot and volunteers' hair is often quite long, so it is inconvenient," he said in Dujiangyan, a mid-sized city in Sichuan, where collapsed buildings now line the main streets.

"We give them free haircuts to make their work easier and also help people from town who want their hair cut."

The disaster has prompted an unprecedented outpouring of public support from across China that has helped feed and clothe people in badly-hit but accessible areas.

Taxi drivers lined up for hours to ferry victims to the hospital, a senior executive trekked into a stricken town with a satellite phone, and thousands of individuals stuffed food and water into their cars and drove towards disaster zones.

Officials coordinating relief efforts say they are so overwhelmed with help that they need only experts with special skills.

They are racing against time to find survivors still trapped in rubble and open roads so that exhausted refugees from flattened villages can trek out to tent camps in the larger towns.

"The main volunteers that we need at the moment are experts in search and rescue, people with medical skills and psychology training," said a government note to would-be volunteers that asked others to go home and donate money or goods instead.

The enthusiastic but inexperienced volunteers who hurried to Sichuan after watching the tragedy unfold on television are creating some impatience among locals eager to pick up the pieces of their own lives.

Chen Lu, an office worker staffing Dujiangyan's volunteer center desk who lost family in the quake, said she signed up because she didn't want to just sit in her tent and grieve.

"Everybody is doing their best to help those who lived move on. We don't want to just sit around and do nothing while our city has all these problems. We know best what we need."

Money has been flooding in to support disaster relief from across China, sometimes from novel sources.

In the wealthy coastal province of Zhejiang, a couple cut lobster off their wedding menu on Sunday and were planning to send the 4000 yuan ($572.20) in savings to the quake-hit area, state news agency Xinhua reported.

"We're just eating one less lobster, but we'll be able to provide one month's ration for a refugee," the bride said. "This kind of conversion, I think, has deep significance."