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French City Observes 'Night of Love' for Quake Victims

"Have the students in the quake-hit areas gone back to class?" "How have the pandas been affected by the earthquake?" "What does China need the most right now?"

These were some of the questions posed by French citizens to Chinese officials during a charity event titled "Night of Love", held in the city of Clichy near Paris on Wednesday.

The event was the first of its kind to be hosted by a French municipal government following the deadly earthquake in southwest China last month, which killed more than 69,000 people.

The Clichy city hall was packed with locals of all ages, many of them keenly interested in the latest developments in quake-relief efforts.

The event began with the screening of a documentary in French shot by Xinhua's Paris bureau, depicting the fallout of the quake and the relief efforts, which moved many audiences to tears.

Tumultuous applause greeted the end of the film -- with the audience moved by the love and the unyielding persistence demonstrated by the Chinese people in the disaster.

The earthquake has not only destroyed buildings and claimed lives, but also severely traumatized many survivors, said Gilles Catoire, mayor of Clichy.

He expressed hope that the people of Clichy could help the quake victims rebuild their homes as soon as possible, through donations or other means.

The Clichy authorities had advertised the event in local media for a long time to ensure high presence. All attendees received small "panda" toys as souvenir.

Donation stands had also been set up around the city, as authorities called on the people to help the quake victims in any way possible.

The Clichy government hopes to form sister city ties with one of quake-affected city and to provide steady assistance to it during its rebuilding.

It will also invite some children from that area to visit France on their vacation.

Hu Changchun, a press official from the Chinese Embassy in France, read out a report on the latest developments in China's quake relief efforts, and expressed gratitude to France and international community for their support and assistance.

The "Night of Love" presented a good opportunity to strengthen ties between the French and the Chinese people in the run-up to the Olympics, he said.

The joint efforts of all Chinese people and the international community will no doubt help those living in the quake-hit areas rebuild their homes very soon, said Hu.

An 8.0-magnitude earthquake jolted southwest China's Sichuan Province on May 12, leaving 69,185 people dead and 374,171 others injured as of 12:00 local time (0400 GMT) Wednesday, according to China's State Council Information Office.

Domestic and foreign donations for quake relief have reached 53.50 billion yuan (US$7.80 billion) in cash and goods, of which 19.11 billion yuan (US$2.79 billion) have already been dispatched to the quake-hit areas.

(Xinhua News Agency June 26, 2008)

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