05/13/2008, 00.00
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Taiwan and the Dalai Lama saddened over earthquake, ready to collaborate with Beijing

The Buddhist leader prays for the victims and says he is deeply saddened by the disastrous earthquake that struck Sichuan yesterday. Taipei sends aid and is ready to collaborate with the international community to bring aid to the injured.

Taipei (AsiaNews) - Taipei and Dharamsala, two of the sharpest thorns in the side of the Chinese government, offer aid and prayers for Beijing to relieve the national situation after the disastrous earthquake that struck southwest China yesterday.  While the Dalai Lama says he is "deeply saddened" over the number of the victims, the outgoing president of Taiwan - the pro-independence Chen Shui-bian - calls upon the foreign minister and non-governmental agencies of the island to "do everything they can" to help the Chinese population.

At this moment, the number of the victims of the earthquake - which measured 7.9 on the Richter scale - is steady at 10,000, but is destined to rise.  Aid operations have just reached, by foot, the epicentre of the earthquake, in the area of Wenchuan.  It is feared that at least 20,000 more have died. 

In the meantime, the Dalai Lama, described by the Chinese government as "a monster with a human face and the heart of a beast", has published a message in which he says he is "deeply saddened by the loss of many lives and many more who have been injured" and extends his "deep sympathy and heartfelt condolences to those families who have been directly affected" by the disaster and his "prayers for those who have lost their lives and those injured in the quake".

At the same time, from Taipei the outgoing president Chen - repeatedly accused by Beijing of "wanting to bring war to the Straits of Taiwan" - expresses his condolences "to the victims of the disaster and to the Chinese government", and emphasises: "Taiwan is willing to co-operate with the international community to participate in disaster relief and reconstruction work".  His successor, the nationalist Ma Ying-jeou, shares these sentiments and urges "the government and civil groups to offer the relevant assistance".

The local Red Cross is responding to the appeals, giving 280,000 euros to the Chinese relief teams, as is the Fo Guang Shan, a Buddhist humanitarian organisation that has sent an equal amount of money to Sichuan.  A shipment of tents, sheets, and medicine is ready to be sent by sea to the areas struck by the earthquake.

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