Mon 30 Jun 2008
Filed under: News,Regional
American Secretary of State inspects post-quake destruction and recovery
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice praised China’s post-earthquake recovery efforts during a visit to the disaster zone yesterday, saying it contrasted with Burma’s reluctance to allow in aid after a devastating cyclone.
Ms Rice was the highest-ranking American to inspect damage from the May 12 quake that damaged a wide swath of south-west China’s mountainous Sichuan province. The magnitude-7.9 quake killed almost 70,000 people – including thousands of schoolchildren who died when their classrooms crumbled.
She stopped in Dujiangyan, a badly hit city of 250,000, where officials said 3,000 people died and 90% of the buildings were uninhabitable.
â€œMy goodness,â€ she said as she surveyed a pile of rubble, once a gym, before heading to a community of thousands of temporary homes and a water purification facility run by a US charity.
â€œI can see that the Chinese government and officials have been attentive,â€ Ms Rice said after the tour.
â€œI can see how much effort has gone into the recovery. But with a disaster of this magnitude, no one can do it alone.â€
Ms Rice said China’s efforts contrasted with that of Burma’s ruling junta, which faced worldwide criticism after Cyclone Nargis on May 2-3 for failing to speed aid to survivors and initially barring foreign aid workers from the hardest-hit Irrawaddy delta.
Two weeks after the cyclone slammed into the area, the reclusive regime authorised the UN to use 10 helicopters inside the country.
The government’s official death toll this week reached more than 84,500.
â€œIt has been sad that . . . instead of making possible the international community’s response to their people, that they have put up barriers to that response,â€ Ms Rice said.
â€œMany lives could have been saved and many more could still be saved if we can get that response,â€ she said. â€œThis is not a matter of politics.â€
Grieving parents in China’s Dujiangyan have tried to file a lawsuit demanding compensation along with an explanation and apology from the government for the large number of students killed. But officials refused to accept their papers.
School collapses have become one of the most charged issues in the earthquake recovery process. On the one-month anniversary of the quake, hundreds of parents of children killed in a school in hard-hit Beichuan staged a protest. Later yesterday, Ms Rice was to fly to Beijing to meet President Hu Jintao, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.
Meetings will likely focus on North Korea’s destruction on Friday of its nuclear reactor cooling tower at the Yongbyon facility – the end of the first phase of the regime’s nuclear wind-down – and what the next step will be.
So far, the US and other countries have agreed to give the North the equivalent of a million tons of oil for disabling Yongbyon, and providing a list of nuclear programmes.
On Thursday, Pyongyang presented a 60-page account of its nuclear activities. The declaration triggered an announcement from US President George Bush that he was moving to ease some sanctions on the North.
China is Ms Rice’s last stop on a June 23-30 tour that also took her to Germany, Japan and South Korea.