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China marks anniversary of Sichuan quake


DUJIANGYAN, May 12 (RIA Novosti) - China on Tuesday marked the first anniversary of a deadly earthquake in its southwestern province of Sichuan, a RIA Novosti correspondent reported.

At 2:28 p.m. (06.28 GMT) China observed a nationwide minute of silence in the memory of the more than 87,000 people believed to have died in the quake, the most powerful to hit China for decades.

Some 374,000 people were also injured in the disaster, and five million were left homeless. Direct economic losses topped $150 billion.

Commemorative services were held all across Wenchuan County, the epicenter of the 8.0-magnitude earthquake. The area was almost completely leveled by the quake and subsequent massive landslides.

Chinese leader Hu Jintao attended a commemorative service in the town of Yingxiu, Wenchuan County. In his speech, he expressed his condolences to the victims of the earthquake and praised reconstruction efforts.

"The post-quake reconstruction has made important progress, and the earthquake survivors are marching toward a new life," Xinhua quoted the Chinese leader as saying.

On Monday, Hu met with senior foreign diplomats in the provincial capital of Chengdu to thank them for their disaster relief efforts.

"Assistance from the international community greatly supported China's disaster relief and reconstruction efforts and showcased grand humanitarianism and sincere friendship with the Chinese people," the agency quoted Hu as saying.

More than 160 countries and international organizations offered their assistance to China in the aftermath of the quake.

Xu Rongxing, 62, was found by a Russian rescue unit after being trapped for 127 hours in the rubble without food and water. In April, she wrote a letter to RIA Novosti to pass on her thanks to her rescuers.

"In Dujiangyan, you risked your own life to save a stranger from a building which could have collapsed at any moment. You bestowed life on me that day," she wrote.

The woman now lives with her family in a temporary shelter made of welded steel panels with a total area of 15 square meters, with outdoor facilities. The dwelling is located some 500 meters from the ruins of her former house.

"We were promised that by late 2010 we will move into a state-funded apartment," the woman's husband said.

Along with rescuers, the Russian emergencies ministry also sent a team of doctors to the area. During the rescue period, Russian doctors helped 1,437 people, including 143 children. In addition, Russian planes made a total of 22 flights to the affected areas carrying humanitarian aid worth $14 million.

The Russian ambassador to China, Sergei Razov, said a total of 550 children from Sichuan would undergo a rehabilitation program in Russia's Far East this summer.

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