VARIOUS: Foreign aid pledges as China sends more troops to earthquake-hit Sichuan Province and Premier Wen...
- Title: VARIOUS: Foreign aid pledges as China sends more troops to earthquake-hit Sichuan Province and Premier Wen Jiabao tours the area/ Pope Benedict prays for victims
- Date: 14th May 2008
- Summary: (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) MS. SU JUXIANG, VICE CHAIRMAN, RED CROSS SOCIETY OF CHINA, SAYING: "The U.S. government and the American people offered help to the Chinese people again. We really appreciate the friendship between Chinese and American people." PEOPLE HOLDING A CHECK AND SHAKING HANDS A CHECK SHOWING "500,000 US DOLLARS"
- Reuters ID: LVAAO7ESTX6QTQ6Z7KFE4S2Z59TG
- Duration: 00:00:28
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- Topics: International Relations,Disasters / Accidents / Natural catastrophes
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- Story Text: Premier Wen Jiabao toured earthquake-hit areas of China on Wednesday as United States donated 500,000 U.S. dollars for Chinese victims of earthquake and South Korea said it will provide one million dollars worth of emergency aid to China. Pope Benedict prayed for the victims of of the Sichuan quake.
Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao continued touring areas of devastation in the country's southwest on Wednesday (May 15), winning the hearts of Chinese people as he maintained a hands-on approach to the earthquake disaster that has killed nearly 15,000.
Wen was touring Beichuan county on Wednesday, where at least 1,000 students and teachers were buried under a seven-storey school. Rows of apartment blocks there collapsed.
A near-overwrought Wen was shown on state television scrambling over the remains of a collapsed buildings and comforting devastated locals.
Wen also thanked volunteers from the U.S.-based Children's Heartlink and said that China was grateful for outside aid.
He later took a helicopter to Wenchuan, one of the hardest-hit areas that took rescue workers a long time to reach.
Premier Wen Jiabao made emotional appeals to workers and comfort orphaned children.
"The government hasn't forgotten this place. We are determined to get all the wounded people out. If the roads are blocked, we will use planes to get the people out," he said, standing amid a cluster of residents, some of whom wiped away tears.
The death toll from China's deadliest earthquake in decades climbed to nearly 15,000 on Wednesday, as officials warned of calamities downstream from broken rivers and dams strained to bursting point.
Tens of thousands of troops, firefighters and civilians raced to save more than 25,000 people buried across a wide swathe of southwest Sichuan province under collapsed schools, factories and hospitals after Monday's 7.9 magnitude quake.
The official death toll climbed to 14,866, as rescuers pulled at tangled chunks of buildings for signs of life.
The government sent 50,000 troops to dig for victims.
Chinese state television showed troops making their way to earthquake-ravaged areas on rivers, through mountains and in air.
Officials have also warned of dangers from increased strain on local dams as well as mudslides on brittle hillsides where rain has been forecast over the next few days.
Two hydropower stations in Maoxian county, where 7,000 residents and tourists remain stranded near the epicentre, were "seriously damaged". Authorities warned that dams could burst.
Landslides had blocked the flow of two rivers in northern Qingchuan county, forming a huge lake in a region where 1,000 have already died and 700 are buried, Xinhua said.
The quake had also stopped a river in the stricken Mianzhu region, prompting officials to evacuate residents and drain dams, downstream, the agency said.
Underscoring the urgency of relief efforts, the Communist Party's top discipline watchdog vowed to punish officials for any dereliction of duty.
The quake, the worst to hit China since 1976 when up to 300,000 died, has drowned out upbeat government propaganda three months ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games.
It has also muffled criticism from abroad over recent unrest in Tibet, with images of the human tragedy and heroic rescue efforts spurring offers of aid and an outpouring of sympathy.
Ordinary people have also sprung into action and Sichuan Television showed locals in Beichuan donating large amounts of aid supplies, which formed a large pile on the ground in one city.
The Party's swift action to mobilise a massive rescue force has made a jarring comparison with that of Myanmar, whose government's slow response to a devastating cyclone has infuriated aid and rights groups. und in one city.
The U.S. Ambassador to China presented a check for 500,000 U.S. dollars to the International Federation of Red Cross in Beijing on Wednesday (May 13) to help in relief and recovery efforts.
Carl Naucler, the Managing Director of the International Federation of Red Cross for East Asia said together with Red Cross China, his organisation would launch a preliminary appeal. Aid workers were already in Sichuan Province to do an assessment on how much aid would be needed.
"Of course we realise that the immediate need is there in terms of water, food, warm clothing etc. But I think this disaster implies also long term work that we have to do, not only in reconstruction but also in rehabilitation of people," Naucler said.
Su Juxiang, Vice Chairman of Red Cross China, was at the U.S. Embassy to receive the check.
"The U.S. government and the American people offered help to the Chinese people again. We really appreciate the friendship between Chinese and American people," Su said.
Authorities have ordered stricken areas to ensure food prices remain stable, but some Chinese news reports described price rises and shortages.
The extent of destruction in many towns across the mountainous area suggested rescuers would find many more bodies than survivors in the rubble.
Rain has frustrated rescuers' efforts to get to some areas and more rain is forecast for coming days.
South Korea said on Wednesday that it was ready to send one million dollars worth of emergency aid to the quake-hit Sichuan region in China.
"Once China and the South Korean government agree on the emergency aid, emergency relief goods can be delivered in a day or two, and about 40 emergency rescue workers and about 20 medical teams are standing by to leave for China," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Moon Tae-young. More than 1,100 South Korean students and residents are living in the quake-hit area.
Pope Benedict on Wednesday prayed for the victims of the Sichuan quake.
"I ask you to join me in fervid prayer for all those who have lost their lives," he said at his weekly general audience in St Peter's Square.
"I am spiritually close to the people tried by such a devastating calamity ... may God grant strength to all those involved in the immediate needs of rescue work," he said.
A Vatican source, meanwhile, said the Vatican was considering sending a financial contribution for relief efforts but still had not decided on the best way to send the money.
The 7.9 magnitude earthquake, which struck the Sichuan area on Monday, has killed nearly 15,000 people with the toll likely to soar.
Hundreds of aftershocks were felt and for those whose houses remain, they were too afraid to return home. Many are still shocked at what has happened.
The quake is the worst to hit China since 1976, when up to 300,000 people died.
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