China offers help, condolences
Choi Chi-yuk in Beijing
As China provides rescue crew and aid supplies for earthquake-devastated Japan, the country's leaders have wasted no time in expressing their condolences over the thousands killed by Friday's quake and tsunami.
President Hu Jintao telephoned Japan's Emperor Akihito yesterday to say that China was willing to help those in need in Japan, Xinhua reported.
After the annual session of the National People's Congress ended in Beijing, Premier Wen Jiabao told Japanese reporters: 'I would like to ... extend my deep condolences for the lives lost in the disaster and to express my sincere sympathy to the Japanese people.
'China is also a country which is prone to earthquake disasters and we fully understand the hardship that Japan is experiencing now.'
Xinhuanet.com quoted an unnamed Ministry of Commerce official as saying yesterday that the central government would donate 30 million yuan (HK$35.47 million) worth of relief supplies to Japan, with the first batch leaving Shanghai for the quake zone yesterday afternoon.
China Central Television reported that a Chinese rescue team yesterday had managed to contact 11 staff from an international exchange centre in Rizhao, Shandong province, missing in Japan.
Along with some 260 rescuers from the United States and Britain, the 15-member Chinese squad is searching for people missing in Iwate prefecture, one of the coastal regions hit hardest by the quake and tsunami. In the hope of helping Chinese students, workers and tourists, another group of officials from the Chinese embassy in Tokyo has reached Sendai, the city closest to the epicentre.
Team member Li Yang said yesterday that so far, no deaths or injuries of Chinese people were known, but investigations were far from over.
Li said a group of 57 mainland students stranded in a complex about 500 metres from the sea were safe.
Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi yesterday assured Japanese Ambassador to China Niwa Unichiro of China's continuing disaster relief support.