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China to Airlift Aid to Tsunami-struck Countries

China will airlift emergency aid to the earthquake and tsunami-struck countries in South and Southeast Asia, Premier Wen Jiabao said on Monday.

Premier Wen extended sincere condolences on behalf of the Chinese government to the affected countries in calls to the Indonesian and Maldivian presidents and the prime ministers of India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia and Myanmar.

"The Chinese government and people are sympathetic with friendly neighboring countries and people," Wen said.

The ministries of foreign affairs, commerce and finance are making preparations to provide relief supplies and other humanitarian aid worth 21.6 million yuan (US$2.6 million) to the stricken countries.

The earthquake, with a magnitude of 8.7 according to the China Earthquake Administration, hit at 6:58 AM (0058 UTC) Sunday off the west coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The tsunami it created swept across the Indian Ocean, sending walls of water up to 10 meters high crashing into the coastlines of several countries.

The waves traveled as far as Kenya and Somalia -- some 7,000 kilometers -- and affected the islands of Mauritius, Reunion and the Seychelles. More than 100 Somali fishermen have been reported missing.

On Monday, the US Geological Survey upgraded the magnitude of Sunday's quake from 8.9 to 9.0 and said it was the fourth largest in the world since 1900.

The death toll was reported on Monday to be at least 24,000, and is still rising.

(Xinhua News Agency, China.org.cn December 28, 2004)

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