The recent earthquake in Sichuan hit 50 miles northwest of Chengdu, where we stayed just 4 months ago. I've contacted Sim's Cozy Guesthouse, and luckily they haven't suffered any damage or injury. I've contacted Erik Wiersma to make sure he's good too, and hopefully I'll hear back from him.
Reports on damage in Chengdu itself seems to conflict, some talking of almost 1000 deaths, others report minimal damage. The Chinese people that we met a few weeks ago in Slope Point were from Chengdu. I've been in contact with them, and some of them have been home. One of them has suffered heavy damage to his apartment and possessions.
The Olympics are just around the corner and Bejing must surely have imagined different international headlines than those that have come to pass. So much has happened to China since our time there, first the Tibetan unrest, subsequent suppression and public opprobrium that followed, and now this devastating and tragic earthquake. In the first case, the Chinese showed their similarity with the Burmese regime, and in the second, they demonstrated the difference, by accepting foreign humanitarian aid immediately and mobilising the army in Sichuan as urgently as they did in Tibet. (Burma by stark and disgusting contrast are centralizing their resources into the administration of a referendum of dubious worth, and keeping US and other aid at arms length and away from those who need it.)
My undiluted sympathy goes out to those Chinese people caught up in this natural disaster. It has perhaps given an opportunity for ordinary people worldwide to connect to ordinary people in China through fund-raising and humanitarian organizations, over the heads of politicians and outside the straitjacket of politics.