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Hu: Saving Lives Top Priority

President Hu Jintao on Friday inspected quake-battered Mianyang City in southwest China's Sichuan Province, urging continued efforts in quake rescue and giving top priority to the saving of people's lives even after four days have passed since the quake struck.

Hu arrived at Mianyang at noon after more than two hours of flight from Beijing. In the meeting room of the airport, he and Premier Wen Jiabao, who had been directing relief work in the disaster-hit areas since Monday, discussed the quake-relief work.

The previous relief work had been progressing in an orderly fashion and effectively, which laid a smooth way path for future work, both maintained. In face of pressing time, all should continue to work tirelessly and continuously to combat the disaster and minimize the loss, they said.

The relief work should stick to the principle of "putting people first" and take saving people's lives as the top priority, the meeting said. The Utmost efforts must be made, even if there only exists the faintest hope of finding more survivors.

The meeting said "rescuers must reach not only towns but also all villages." The survivors who had been rescued must be transferred to safer places in time, and orphans and old bereaved people must be properly cared for.

Meanwhile, close watch must be conducted on possible aftershocks to avoid new casualties, and anti-epidemic work must be stepped up, the meeting said.

During the flight, Hu opened a map, and carefully assessed the quake damage and the progress of relief work with others aboard the plane.

He said the challenge was still daunting, the task was still arduous and the time pressing.

Although the "golden rescue time", which refers to the 72 hours after an earthquake occurs, has already passed, he said, "Saving lives is still the top priority of our work."

At the same time, he said, "we need to make greater efforts in treating the injured, restoring the transportation, telecommunications and power supply infrastructure in quake-stricken areas and ensure basic living conditions for local residents."

Hu stressed, "Currently, quake relief work has entered the most crucial phase. We must make every effort, race against time and overcome all difficulties to achieve the final victory of the relief efforts."

After the meeting with Wen, Hu rushed to quake-devastated Beichuan County by automobile.

Hu, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), was in the quake-hit area to console the victims and inspect the rescue and relief work.

He also visited the troops and medical workers who were engaged in around-the-clock relief efforts in the quake areas.

The death toll from the powerful earthquake rose to 22,069 nationwide as of 2 p.m. Friday, while 168,669 people were injured, according to the emergency response office of the State Council.

No give-up, says premier

Also Friday morning, Premier Wen Jiabao also told Chinese media on a train in Sichuan that saving lives remained the top priority almost four days after the quake.

"We won't give up if there is even the slightest hope of finding more survivors," he said.

Wen said the quake was "the biggest and most destructive since new China was founded in 1949," and the quick response had helped reduce casualties to the greatest extent.

The premier vowed "to pour out whatever the country is capable of" to combat the massive disaster and fight until the end.

To move forward with relief work, the country needs confidence, resolution, perseverance and forceful organization work, he said.

"We believe that so long as we rely on the people, the military and the civilians unite together, the officials and the general public unite together, and together we stand, we will surely win this anti-quake battle," Wen stressed.

(Xinhua News Agency May 16, 2008)

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