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German troops in Sichuan mercy mission
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By John Sexton
China.org.cn correspondent reporting from Sichuan

Lieutenant-Colonel Hans Jeitner (second left, in white shirt) of the German armed forces and his team, who spent a week erecting hospital tents in Mianzhu. First Lieutenant Tolsten Grimmer is to Colonel Jeitner's right, and Ms Susanne Lichte to his left.

Seven soldiers and three civilian workers from the German armed forces, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Hans Jeitner, spent last week in Mianzhu City erecting tents to replace hospital buildings destroyed in the May 12 earthquake.

Colonel Jeitner said his team had delivered 80 large tents with built in air conditioning and heating systems. After erecting 15 of the tents, they presented the remainder to the Chinese Red Cross.

He said the doctors and nurses of Mianzhu were overjoyed with their new accommodation, as for nearly a month they had been treating patients in cramped and unsuitable tents set up in the street outside their ruined hospital.

"We got the impression the Chinese people were very happy the German armed forces had come to China. I think it was a good way to build up the relationship between Germany and China," he added.

Susanne Lichte, a civilian member of the team, said the decision to travel to China had been taken very quickly and spontaneously. "We were told on Friday that we were going to China and we left on Monday."

Ms Lichte said she was surprised at the freedom of movement they had been given by the Chinese authorities. She said they arrived in Chengdu, from there went to Dujiangyan, on to Mianzhu, and finally to a small village north east of Mianzhu.

She described a very touching moment in the airport when a young girl came up to her, stroked her arm, said "thank you for your help," and then started to cry.

First Lieutenant Tolsten Grimmer said he had been moved by the friendliness of the people. "Although it was a very bad situation, we were made to feel like honored guests. The local people greeted us very warmly and everyone wanted pictures of us holding their children."

(China.org.cn June 11, 2008)

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