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China to Send Further Relief to Afghanistan

China will offer further aid to disaster-stricken Afghanistan, including sending its elite earthquake-relief squad to the neighboring country if requested, government officials said Thursday.

Meanwhile, Chinese seismologists flatly ruled out allegations that the seismic shifts in the remote Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan -- where over 2,000 people are feared to have died Monday night -- was likely caused by heavy bombardments by the United States.

Li Qianghua, spokesman of the China Seismological Bureau, said his agency will provide immediate technical and personnel assistance to the disaster-ridden nation if the United Nations and Afghanistan asks.

"We will send some members of our national earthquake emergency rescue brigade to the region at the request of Afghanistan," he said.

Established last April, the bureau's 214-member rescue squad is armed with state-of-the-art disaster search and relief equipment as well as extensive staff expertise, Li said. Its goal is to provide first aid to disaster-devastated regions in and outside China.

The Red Cross Society of China Thursday said in a statement that it will dispatch US$50,000 in emergency humanitarian aid to help the Afghan Red Crescent Society in disaster-relief efforts.

On Monday, China airlifted 57.5-tons of material aid to Afghanistan. This is the first of several packages in the US$3.6-million urgent humanitarian assistance China promised to provide to the Afghan interim administration when it was established in December.

Sun Yuxi, the Chinese Ambassador to Afghanistan, said he hoped China's humanitarian aid materials -- including medical equipment, medicine and stationery -- will play an effective role in helping the victims.

The remaining emergency aid packages will be airlifted in two planes every day until Sunday, said Deng Xijun, an official with the Chinese Embassy in Kabul.

"Aid materials valued at US$600,000 were sent to Baghlan Province from Kabul on Wednesday," Deng said. "They are instrumental to the earthquake relief efforts."

Ambassador Sun promised that China will continue to provide assistance to Afghanistan to the best of its ability.

While the international community is pooling assistance to Afghanistan, some wires and websites are quoting a Russian scientist who alleges the earthquake might have been triggered by the heavy US bombardments in the Asian country.

Zhang Guomin, a senior Chinese seismologist, Thursday said there was simply no possibility that bombs could have caused the seismic disaster in Afghanistan.

Located at the intersection of the Europe-Asia seismic belt and the India-Baikal seismic belt, Afghanistan has historically been an earthquake-prone country, he said.

In particular, earthquakes are relatively frequent in the Hindu Kush mountain range, he said.

Chen Yong, another expert with the China Seismological Bureau, agrees.

"It would take 60,000 to 100,000 TNT equivalent tons exploding 15 kilometers below the earth's surface to trigger a tremor of that size in Afghanistan," Chen said. "The heaviest bombs the US dropped in Afghanistan were less than 7 TNT equivalent tons."

(China Daily March 29, 2002)


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