United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon flew from Bangkok, Thailand, to the epicentre of the earthquake in China on Saturday morning, 24 May, to express his condolences and solidarity to the Chinese people and Government and to witness for himself the rescue efforts, following the 12 May earthquake that took at least 60,000 lives in China’s Sichuan Province.
He was greeted at Chengdu airport by Chinese officials, including the Chinese Ambassador to the United Nations, Wang Guangya, and Sichuan’s Provincial Governor, Jiang Jufeng.
They flew by helicopter to the epicentre area, in the hard-hit Wenchuan County where they could see full mountainsides sheared away by the earthquake. In the town of Ying Xu, almost totally destroyed by the earthquake, the Secretary-General was met by Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. In an emotional joint press encounter, surrounded by rubble and rescue workers, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his condolences and solidarity to the people and Government of China. “I am particularly saddened,” the Secretary-General said, “by the tragic loss of so many children who were killed while studying in their schools”. Speaking to Prime Minister Wen, he added “It was inspiring and impressive that under your leadership your people have shown great strength and courage and resilience to overcome this. The United Nations and the whole international community stand behind you.”
The Secretary-General then toured the town, visiting survivors housed in makeshift tents, meeting with rescuers, and with workers building temporary shelters where part of Yingxiu once stood, while helicopters roared in and out.
The Secretary-General returned to Bangkok on Saturday afternoon.