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U.S. offers quake aid to China

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  • U.S. says it's ready to help China quake victims in any way possible
  • U.N. secretary-general expresses sadness and sympathy
  • Some 20,000 Chinese troops have been deployed to the region
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush said Monday the United States is "ready to help in any way possible" in the aftermath of the earthquake that hit China, killing thousands.

A top U.S. aid official said Beijing had not yet requested assistance.

The United States has search-and-rescue teams on standby in Virginia and California, said Ky Luu, the director of foreign disaster assistance for the U.S. Agency for International Development. Washington is also prepared to send a disaster assistance response team if asked, he said.

But the quickest way to help would be funding, he said.

The massive 7.9-magnitude earthquake killed nearly 10,000 people in China and left hundreds trapped under rubble, state run media reported. About 900 students were reported buried under a collapsed school.

China's Seismological Bureau said the quake affected more than half the country's provinces and municipalities.

Luu said Beijing has good disaster-response mechanisms of its own.

"The Chinese have a strong capability of responding," he said, adding that the United States doesn't want to displace the internal expertise. "There is a 72-hour window of opportunity and it may be best to support regional teams on the ground."

China's government is releasing $2.89 million to respond to the disaster, China's official Xinhua news agency reported.

President Bush said: "I am particularly saddened by the number of students and children affected by this tragedy."

China's President Hu Jintao ordered an all-out effort to help those affected, and Premier Wen Jiabao traveled to the region to direct the rescue work, Xinhua reported.

"My fellow Chinese, facing such a severe disaster, we need calm, confidence, courage and efficient organization," Wen was quoted as saying. "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."

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: "I want to express my sadness and sympathy for the victims of today's earthquake in southwest China... My thoughts are very much with them and their families."

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Some 20,000 Chinese troops have been deployed to the region, while another 24,000 are scheduled to be airlifted to affected areas, Xinhua reported. Another 3,000 police officers have been activated.

China's Red Cross has dispatched 557 tents, 2,500 quilts and other aid to the disaster zone, Chinese television reported.

CNN's Zain Verjee, Yuli Yang and Adeline Chen contributed to this report.

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