The United Nations is prepared to assist the Chinese Government help the victims of yesterday's deadly earthquake in the southwest of the country.
According to media reports, more than 10,000 people have lost their lives following the quake, which measured about 7.8 on the Richter scale and was centred on Sichuan Province.
A UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) Team alert was sent out yesterday to alert China that the world body is ready to help if needed, Elizabeth Byrs of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs ( OCHA) told reporters at a press briefing in Geneva yesterday.
OCHA has also sent information to Chinese authorities detailing how UN emergency expert teams are on standby to provide assistance.
The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) expressed its deep concern over the large number of children affected by the massive quake. Television reports showed a collapsed middle school with 900 children trapped in the rubble near Sichuan's capital, Chengdu.
Despite limited access to information due to cell phone networks being damaged by the quake, the agency has received reports that there were casualties in the neighbouring Gansu and Yunnan provinces as well.
According to UNICEF, Sichuan is one of China's poorest and most populous provinces, with a total population of some 90 million.
The agency is worried that the number killed, injured and affected by the tremors will continue to rise as rescue teams reach impacted areas.
"UNICEF and other UN agencies are not usually requested to assist the Government of China in its response to natural disasters," it said in a press release, noting that it has been informed that the National Disaster Reduction Centre of China - the official coordinating body for disaster response - has dispatched rescue teams numbering in the thousands supported by the country's armed forces.