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China okays rescuers from Russia, SKorea, Singapore: state media

by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) May 16, 2008
China has accepted offers from Russia, South Korea and Singapore to send rescue teams to earthquake-hit Sichuan province, state media reported early Friday.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang was quoted by Xinhua news agency as saying that the Chinese government had accepted the offers, taking into consideration their proximity to China, which may ensure prompt aid.

The announcement was made just as state media reported a Japanese rescue team had arrived in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, the first foreign emergency workers to aid the relief efforts.

Xinhua gave no more details as to why Beijing had chosen to accept help from Russia, Singapore and South Korea, or when teams from those countries might arrive in China.

The decision came after Beijing had previously rejected any foreign offers to send rescue teams.

Australian expertise was politely declined Wednesday, and South Korean specialists were also initially rejected, even though China faces a race against time to find survivors.

A second team of Japanese experts is expected to leave for China later Friday.

China said Thursday that over 50,000 people had likely died in the devastating 7.9-magnitude earthquake that hit its southwest on Monday.

related report
Japanese rescue team arrives in southwest China: state media
A team of Japanese emergency workers arrived early Friday in quake-hit Sichuan province, state media reported, the first foreign rescuers to aid the relief efforts.

The team, which official media earlier said comprised 31 people, flew into Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Beijing has also accepted offers from Russia, South Korea and Singapore to send teams to the province, which was devastated by a 7.9-magnitude quake on Monday, Xinhua reported early Friday.

The Japan team's arrival and decision to accept resucers from three other countries signals a shift in Beijing's stance after it had previously ruled out a need for foreign teams.

A second batch of about 30 Japanese workers will leave for China later Friday with rescue dogs. Japan is also considering sending a separate medical team of some 20 people.

"Since the earthquake happened there's been a significant amount of time and the situation is extremely critical," Japanese team leader Takashi Koizumi told reporters earlier at Tokyo's main international airport ahead of departure.

"First and foremost we want to save human lives. That's our main focus."

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China battling to prevent epidemics in quake-zone: official
Beijing (AFP) May 15, 2008
China said Thursday that no major disease outbreaks had been reported in the earthquake zone but warned that a battle against epidemics was only just beginning as relief workers recovered bodies.

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