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AU Applauds China's Earthquake Relief Efforts

The African Union (AU) on Thursday appreciated China's relief efforts in the devastating earthquake that hit its southwest Sichuan Province on Monday.

"We applaud the effort deployed by the government and people of China to deal with this tragedy and commend and support the ongoing search-and-rescue operation," AU Commission Chairperson Jean Ping said in an official statement exclusively to Xinhua.

"We also commend international efforts to support China, which we hope will bring succor to the people affected by the earthquake."

The earthquake, measured at 7.8 on the Richter scale, rocked southwest China Monday afternoon. The death toll, which has been confirmed at nearly 20,000, could soar to 50,000, local authorities said.

The AU Commission has watched with alarm and dismay the devastating earthquake and subsequent aftershocks that hit large parts of China in the last few days, he said.

"We are greatly concerned about the sheer size of the devastation and the colossal loss of lives, as well as the humanitarian situation now being experienced in the region."

In the statement, Jean Ping said the pan-African body "commiserates with the people and government of China over this tragedy."

"We express our heartfelt sympathy to the families of those who lost their lives and properties. We also wish those who suffered injury speedy recovery and hope that on-going rescue efforts will ensure that help reaches those still trapped under the rubles.

"China can be assured that the people of Africa share this moment of grief with the Chinese people," the statement concluded.

(Xinhua News Agency May 16, 2008)

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