Officially, the death toll stands at 10,000, but that number is expected to rise as workers reach the hardest hit areas. Trying to reach those areas are proving to be a challenge. Landslides, power failures, and fallen phone towers are cutting off that region from the outside world. This is the largest natural disaster in China in 30 years.
Karen Chin of Sunnyvale arrived at the San Francisco International Airport this evening from Taiwan. It's quite a ways from central China, but she felt the earthquake on the 12th floor of a department store.
"You just felt a swaying. It went on for quite awhile, it went on for seven to eight minutes," said Chin. Yeah, it just didn't stop. It just constantly felt like it was shaking. I think part of it was because it was a tall building," said Chin.
The devastating quake could also be felt as far away as Thailand and Vietnam. State media reports that the temblor has affected more than half the country. In Sichuan province, 80 percent of the buildings in one county were destroyed. Those who managed to flee were among the lucky ones.
"We were on the 15th floor and the building started shaking quite a lot, so we just left," said a man.
The news spread fast in the Bay Area Chinese communities.
At the Chinese American International School in San Francisco, the quake was the topic of discussion. While outside the Chinese Consulate, people in line for visas shared concerns about their family.
Rina Wu was relieved to find out her relatives in Sichuan Province survived.
"But they stay outside?" said Wu.
"Because of the damage to the buildings?" asks ABC7's Vic Lee.
"Not damage, but because there are so many aftershocks," said Wu.
Chinese-American groups are now assessing the situation, trying to figure out how they can help. Assembly member Fiona Ma is spearheading the effort, calling on organizations to come up with a game plan.
"Well as one of the leading Asian American elected officials, obviously, it affects people many people here in this country who have relatives. My parents were born in China, so that is my home country as well. We have relatives close to the area, so everybody is of course concerned about what happened," said Ma.
Assembly member Ma says as details emerge on the volunteer and relief effort, she will post that information on her web site.
Assembly member Ma's web site: www.fionama.com