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Ban Visits China Region Hit By Massive Earthquake

Secretary-General visits Chinese region devastated by massive quake

24 May 2008 - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today visited one of the towns in China's Sichuan province hit hardest by the recent earthquake, pledging the United Nations' support for the East Asian nation and expressing his condolences to the Chinese people.

"My heart is filled with great sadness by what has happened to the Chinese people. It is a great natural tragedy," Mr. Ban told reporters in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan, after stopping in the town of Yingxiu.

"At the same time I'm moved by such strong leadership [as] demonstrated by the Chinese Government leaders, President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, and all the people who have shown such a great spirit of self-help and cooperation and resilience to overcome this natural disaster."

During his four-hour visit to China, the Secretary-General met with the Premier in Yingxiu, near the epicenter of the 12 May earthquake measuring 8.0 on the Richter scale which, according to state media reports, has claimed more than 60,000 lives.

"Natural disasters can come to any people, any country. What is important is your determined will to overcome," he noted. "The United Nations has taken initial measures to donate the necessary funds; we have sent rescue experts and officers."

Upon his return to New York, Mr. Ban said that he will consult with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and Member States on what further assistance the world body can provide.

He also underscored the importance of a two-track approach that addressed both shorter-term relief and longer-term rehabilitation and reconstruction.

In a statement earlier this week, the Secretary-General announced that the UN is contributing $8 million in relief grants from its Central Emergency Relief Fund (CERF), saying that the funds will be used by a variety of UN agencies, funds and programmes to help Chinese authorities meet the most urgent humanitarian needs.

"The United Nations stands ready to provide further support, as required, to the Government of China in its efforts to respond to the humanitarian needs caused by the disaster," the statement added.

Prior to his visit to China, Mr. Ban saw first-hand the damage left in the wake of Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar and met with the nation's top officials. Tomorrow, he will return to Yangon to attend an international pledging conference, which is co-sponsored by the UN and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to raise funds for the Myanmar disaster.

ENDS

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