About 68,000 volunteers have been organized to participate directly in the rescue and relief efforts in China's quake-hit Sichuan province, an official said on Wednesday.
Tan Hongjie, deputy secretary of the Chinese Communist Youth League's Sichuan provincial committee, said the volunteers had played an important role in rescuing and nursing the injured, offering psychological comfort and other services for quake survivors.
Tan said some volunteers came on their own to help with the disaster relief work. The volunteers included college students, company clerks and organization members.
One volunteer was Zhang Zhengqiang, who works at a catering company in Chengdu, Sichuan's capital. He said he had been offering free cooked food to residents and medical workers since Saturday in Dalan village, Pengzhou City, a severely hit area in Sichuan.
"After the quake, our company organized staff to donate a large amount of food and other relief supplies," said Zhang. "But we think we cannot let people eat bread and instant noodles all the time, as such food is not delicious and lacks nutrition."
Zhang decided to travel to the area to cook, along with 23 other clerks of his company. He said they prepared enough rice, vegetables and meat to feed 2,000 people for a week.
A total of 40,854 people have been confirmed dead in the May 12massive earthquake in Sichuan alone. The quake also affected other provinces. The death toll nationwide was 41,353 as of noon on Wednesday.
(Xinhua News Agency May 21, 2008)