China extremely concerned about Haitian "worst quake" victims

15:27, January 14, 2010      

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The magnitude-7.3 earthquake, the worst and strongest ever recorded in the Caribbean nation of Haiti in 200 years, collapsed a hospital in a hillside district of Port-au-Prince, and the presidential palace, the mansions of the finance and public works ministries, and the parliament building and a cathedral in Port-au-Prince were also damaged.

Electric power supplies, transportation, communications and other facilities paralyzed on the whole, so people of the outside world could hardly get to know the post-quake damages and casualties in the country.

The quake struck at about 4:53 p.m. local time (21:53 GMT) on Tuesday, which was centered 15 km southwest of the capital city at a depth of 10 km, according to U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), which further noted that the quake was followed by a tsunami seven minutes later and two aftershocks of magnitude 5.9 and 5.5 respectively. The quake is widely feared to have killed tens of thousands of people in the capital, Port-an-Prince.

Haiti's Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive has reportedly said that more than 100,000 people may have been killed by the catastrophic tremor, whereas Haitian President, Rene Preval, cited other estimates ranging from 30,000 to 50,000 fatalities.

On Wednesday, January 13, the United Nations Security Council began the meeting with a statement by Security Council President Zhang Yesui, (China's Permanent Representative to the UN Headquarters in New York, who currently chairs the UN Security Council) expressing the council's condolences for the quake victims in Haiti and by observing a minute of silence.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government has voiced its sympathy to the Haitian people over the rare powerful quake since 1770, said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswomen Jiang Yu, who gave a speech Tuesday on the devastating quake that had jolted Haiti.

Chinese leaders are very concerned with the safety of Chinese nationals including peacekeepers, compatriots from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan and overseas Chinese, and have made arrangements and would order to help take rescue operations as soon as possible, said Jiang.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi sent a letter of condolence to his Haitian counterpart Alrich Nicolas, and he said in a statement on Wednesday that the Red Cross Society of China has decided to provide emergency aid for Haiti; the Chinese international rescue team would rush to Haiti as soon as possible to carry out rescue operations; and the Center for Consular Assistance and Protection under the Chinese Foreign Ministry will be responsible for consular services round the clock, or for taking matters of questions and giving answers.

"We are in the belief that the Haiti people, under the leadership of their government, will overcome difficulties and rebuild their home at an early date with the help of international community," Jiang said.

More than 60 Chinese rescuers departed the Beijing International Airport late Wednesday, hours after the quake rattled the Caribbean nation on Wednesday afternoon (local time). The rescue team comprising search and rescue personnel, who have conducted a lot of rescue tasks of this kind for years, and three sniffer dogs, Liu Xiangyang, deputy chief of the National Earthquake Disaster Emergency Rescue Team, told reporters at the airport.

China's international rescue team sent to Haiti is made up of three component parts, namely, the searchers and rescuers, medical staff and logistic support personnel, and it is old-team based and most members are seasoned veterans with much experience.

The rescue team has brought a light detector, hydraulic cushions and other sophisticated rescue facilities and medical supplies, including three sniffer dogs which had performed repeated exploits. The team, said Liu, has a rich, wide-ranging experience and skills in quake rescue operations at home and overseas, would strive to fulfill the mission as entrusted by the Chinese government, and it is due to arrive within 72 "golden hours" after the quake to rescue survivors.

In another development, the United Nation on Tuesday night confirmed that the Headquarters of the U.N. Mission in Haiti was seriously damaged along with other UN installations and "a large number of personnel remain unaccounted for."

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was "very concerned" for the people of Haiti and also for many U.N. staffers who serve in the country, A UN statement said on Tuesday. The UN Secretary General said he has followed the situation in Haiti very closely. He also said the U.N. is to dispatch an emergency rescue team to Haiti to coordinate rescue actions.

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama has also offered to provide all essential help needed to the quake-hit Caribbean country. "My thoughts and prayers go out to those who have been affected by the earthquake. We are also closely monitoring the situation and ready to assist the people of Haiti," President Obama said in a statement released by the White House.

The Republic of Haiti, located in northern Caribbean Sea, is situated in the western part of Hispaniola Island and adjacent to the Dominican Republic to the east. This impoverished Caribbean nation is at the Circum-Pacific Seismic belt.

Haiti declared full independence on January 1, 1804, and it has been the first nation in Latin America and the Caribbean to win independence. However, the nation has been beset with sustained domestic civil strife ever since gaining its independence. In 2004, Haiti's then President Jean-Bertrand Aristide fled into exile. The United Nations then sent in a stabilization mission to the local presence and, consequently, there are about 9,000 peacekeepers in the country at present.

Since October 2004, the Chinese government has sent eight peacekeeping anti-riot police forces there at the request of the U.N., and China currently has a total of 125 peacekeeping police officers in Haiti.

By People's Daily Online and contributed by PD overseas resident reporters Wang Xinping and Wu Yun
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