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News note

School collapses as major earthquake hits China

BEIJING, 12 May 2008 - UNICEF China is deeply concerned that large numbers of children could be affected by a major earthquake in Sichuan Province. China Central Television reports that in one middle school in the city of Du Jiangyan, near Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan,  a three story school building collapsed and 900 students are trapped in the rubble.

According to Government sources, the latest death toll from the quake stands at 8,600 after a series of large earthquakes struck the Wenchuan district of Sichuan at approximately 14:30 hrs (Beijing Time) on May 12. The tremors were felt by UNICEF staff in Beijing some 930 miles to the north.

UNICEF is attempting to gather information about casualties, but information from the affected areas is extremely limited. It is reported that cell phone networks have been substantially affected by the earthquakes. There are additional reports that approximately 5,000 have died in Beichan county alone in Sichuan, with another 10,000 wounded. Reports of additional casualties have also been received from Gansu and Yunnan provinces.

UNICEF works extensively with government counterparts in Sichuan province. Sichuan is one of the poorest and most populous provinces in China. The total population of the province is approximately 90 million. The population of the capital Chengdu is over 10 million. UNICEF is concerned that the number of people killed, injured and affected by this large earthquake will rise as additional affected areas are reached by rescue teams over the coming hours.

UNICEF and other UN agencies are not usually requested to assist the government of China in its response to natural disasters. We have been informed that the National Disaster Reduction Centre of China - the official coordinating body for disaster response - has dispatched rescue teams numbering in the thousands supported by the Peoples Liberation Army.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:
Dale Rutstein, UNICEF China, Tel +861065323131, Email, drutstein@unicef.org




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