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China Welcomes Foreign Offers of Quake Relief

The Chinese government has welcomed foreign aid in the wake of the earthquake that caused serious damage in the south-western province of Sichuan. The death toll had reached nearly 12,000 on Tuesday, May 13.

Rescue workers pull out a young girl from under the rubble of a collapsed school in Juyuan, southwestern China's Sichuan province on Tuesday.

Rescuers have a mammoth task in Sichuan

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters China welcomed the offers of aid it received from foreign countries after Monday's earthquake, but he declined to provide specifics about what type of aid would be accepted or whether any had yet been. Disaster authorities would contact relevant countries and organizations, he said.

"After the earthquake, the international community offered its support and sympathy to China," Qin said. "China and its people express their thanks and their welcome toward that."

Relief soldiers carry out the wounded in Beichuan county, Sichuan

Relief soldiers carry out the wounded in Beichuan county, Sichuan on Tuesday

The death toll resulting from the earthquake had increased to at least 11,921 on Tuesday, the disaster relief chief under the Ministry of Civil Affairs, Wang Zhenyao, told a news conference.

But the authorities expected the number of victims to rise significantly higher as tens of thousands of people remained missing. Rescue teams were having difficulty reaching some of the hardest-hit areas due to the rugged terrain, bad weather and widespread damage to roads. They had, however reached the epicenter in Wenchuan county, according to state media.

Thousands still buried

Alone in the city of Mianzhu, 35 kilometers (22 miles) from the epicenter, at least 2,000 people were killed and 4,800 still buried beneath bricks and slabs of concrete, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Tuesday, citing local authorities. Sichuan province was being shaken by aftershocks of up to 6.1 on the Richter scale.

Cars buried in the debris of collapsed buildings in Dujiangyan, Sichuan

Cars buried in the debris of collapsed buildings in Dujiangyan, Sichuan

The international community responded to the disaster Monday with condolences and offers of aid from Germany, the European Union, the United States and many other countries and organizations.

The earthquake struck in Wenchuan county at 2:28 (0628 GMT) on Monday afternoon and measured 7.9 on the Richter scale. It could be felt in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Bangkok, hundreds of kilometers away from the epicenter.

It was the deadliest earthquake to strike China since a 1976 quake in the northern city of Tangshan caused the deaths of an estimated 242,000 people.

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