China’s Premier Wen Jiabao has asked for public calm and efficient organisation of disaster relief work after a major quake hit southwest China’s Sichuan Province on Monday.
Speaking as he flew to the area to oversee relief work, Wen said the CPC Central Committee and the Cabinet had ordered Party and government officials at all levels to the front line to organise disaster relief.
Officials should make every effort to help the people and to overcome fear and fatigue, Wen said aboard his flight to Taipingsi airport on the outskirts of the Sichuan provincial capital, Chengdu, on Monday evening.
“My fellow Chinese, facing such a severe disaster, we need calm, confidence, courage and efficient organisation,” he said.
“I believe we can certainly overcome the disaster with the public and the military working together under the leadership of the CPC Central Committee and the government.”
The quake, measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale jolted Wenchuan district in southwest China’s Sichuan province at 2.28 pm (around 11am IST) on Monday, according to the China Seismological Bureau (CSB).
The epicentre of the quake was located 31 degrees north and 103.4 degrees east, the bureau said.
The earthquake rocked one of the nation’s main panda breeding centres, state press reported, sparking concern for the welfare of the endangered animals.
The epicentre of the 7.8-magnitude quake was in Wenchuan district, home to the Wolong Nature Reserve, China’s leading research and breeding centre for the endangered animals, the Xinhua news agency said.
Reporters were unable to reach the reserve by phone, and Xinhua quoted the State Forestry Administration (SFA) as saying late on Monday evening about eight hours after the quake struck that the centre was “out of contact”.
All communication linking the centre to the outside world was cut after the earthquake hit, an SFA official told the news agency.
The Sichuan provincial government’s forestry department also had no information from the centre, the official said.
Giant pandas are considered national treasures in China. The animals are notoriously poor breeders and have fast become one of the most endangered creatures in the world.
As of November last year, China had 239 giant pandas in captivity, with another 27 living outside the country.