Bush offers aid to China following earthquake

By Sinclere Lee

WASHINGTON (BNW) —
President George Bush today offered to help China deal with the aftermath of its earthquake, including sharing detailed images of the devastated region taken by its spy satellites. Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao was quoted telling Stupid Bush that China had the satellite pictures, and what China needed was money.

“Well, the U.S. will donate 500 million dollars to help in the earthquake effort,” Bush said.

“When can we expect the money?” Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao asked.

“How soon can you make US the loan?” Stupid Bush asked. As a result, Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao hung up the phone in Bush’s face. Saying, “how stupid can he get?”

In a White House statement, Bush said: "I am particularly saddened by the number of students and children affected by this tragedy... The United States stands ready to help in any way possible."

European governments, including Britain, as well as the major international aid agencies are also ready to offer assistance, in spite of the pressures created by already trying to help with the aftermath of the Burmese cyclone.

Matthew Cochrane, a spokesman for the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross, said: "It is too early to say how much international help might be needed."

Beijing has not so far made any request for assistance from other governments or aid organizations.

China, unlike Burma and other countries in the region, has the resources, manpower and sophisticated disaster response teams capable of handling the emergency on its own.

The Chinese government has sent its own national disaster team and national search and rescue team to the stricken towns and villages to support local relief teams.

Beijing mobilized nearly 8,000 soldiers and police to help with rescue operations in Sichuan province and put it on the second-highest level of emergency footing. The Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao, who flew to the Sichuan capital Chengdu to oversee relief operations, called the quake "a major geological disaster".

An official at the US's National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency said its analysts were examining pictures from the region. The images are powerful enough to show damage to bridges, buildings, railways and tunnels.

The Bush administration has offered similar images to other governments in the past to help organize rescue operations.

It is China's most destructive earthquake since the Tangshan one in 1976 that killed more than 240,000. China, still largely closed to the West at the time, refused help at the time, partly out of national pride and partly because it was unwilling to allow an influx of foreign workers into the country.

While China is now much more open, it has not asked for any help, largely because it has a huge, experienced network of its own for dealing with natural disasters.

The People's Liberation Army, as well as training for war, spends more time than comparable armies on civilian projects, particularly in preparing for such emergencies. They are backed up by the Red Cross, which has millions of volunteers throughout the country trained for disasters.

Cochrane, Asia-Pacific spokesman for the ICRC, said today that a joint Chinese Red Cross and International Federation the Red Cross team had flown from Beijing to the stricken area, but it had not yet reported back, partly because they had arrived in the night.

"The Chinese Red Cross is a massive organization. It has millions of volunteers. They are used to earthquakes and have built up their capacity since the Tangshan earthquake," he said, adding that the country had had to deal with a huge flooding disaster last year.

Having to tackle with both Burma and China at the same time presented logistical challenges, he said, but the Red Cross had the resources.

A United Nations Security Council spokesman said: "There has been no sign of any request yet." The UN continued to focus on getting help to Burma, with aid being flown in, but with UN complaining that its attempts to get workers in were still being hampered by the Burmese government.

The UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, at a press conference in New York, described himself as "immensely frustrated" at the "unacceptably slow" delivery of aid to Burma.

A spokeswoman for the British government's department of international development said that it was monitoring the disaster in China but believed the country had the national capability to deal with it. "We are keeping an eye on it but we think they have a good response team," the spokeswoman said.

Reflecting China's self-sufficiency, she added that DFID over the next few years would be cutting down its staff and spending in China and Britain is diverting aid to poorer countries.

She said Britain's first aid flight to Burma arrived in Rangoon today with plastic sheeting to provide shelter for 9,000 families. The White House announced the US also succeeded in getting its first flight in.
Gareth Owen, director of emergencies at Save the Children, said his organization, which had a team on the ground in China, has been in touch with Beijing with offers to help but China had not yet asked for assistance.

He said that a Chinese disaster emergency team had visited Save the Children's office in England earlier this year and the staff there had been impressed by the efficiency and experience of the Chinese team.

Owen saw no problem in dealing with Burma, where his organization has 500 staff on the ground, and China at the same time if need be. "We are used to doing multiple disasters … Two simultaneously is not stretching us."

He added that with any big natural disaster-involving infrastructure it took time to assess the full extent of the damage.



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