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ITU restores telecoms links vital for Sichuan's rehabilitation effort

Running simultaneously with ITU's relief work in Myanmar, the ITU is deploying satellite terminals in quake-hit China. Some 100 terminals are helping China get communication links back up and running in the Sichuan Province.

The International Telecommunication Union has deployed 100 satellite terminals to help restore vital communication links in the aftermath of the severe earthquake that struck central China on May 12, 2008. The 8.0-magnitude quake in Sichuan province of China killed more than 40,000 people and injured hundreds of thousands, with many still missing ten days after the tragedy.

The quake, which destroyed infrastructure and telecommunications lines, disrupted electricity and transport, brought down buildings and rendered nearly 5 million people homeless, is the country’s worst natural disaster in three decades. With the restoration of communication links, designated government officials and other humanitarian agencies are now able to more efficiently coordinate relief operations. The mobile satellite terminals are easily transported by road and air to be used both by humanitarian workers and the victims of this disaster.

"On behalf of the International Telecommunication Union, I would like to extend our profound sympathy to the government and people of China on the terrible tragedy that struck the South-Western Sichuan province," said Dr Hamadoun Touré, Secretary-General of ITU. "Our hearts go out especially to the families of those who have been killed and injured and those still missing following the powerful earthquake."

"I am shocked by the magnitude of this disaster, which has wreaked havoc in the Sichuan province of China," said Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau. "I would like to assure the government that ITU is ready to provide expertise in carrying out telecommunication network damage assessments aimed at paving the way for the rehabilitation of the damaged telecommunications infrastructure." Mr Al Basheer said that ITU has dispatched satellite equipment to facilitate rescue and relief operations. He thanked Thuraya for contributing the satellite terminals and FedEx Switzerland for transporting the equipment free of charge to China. ITU will bear all other costs related to the deployment.

Vice Minister Xi Guo Hua, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, said: "On behalf of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of the People’s Republic of China, I would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to the International Telecommunication Union for the sympathy you have shown and the kind offer of satellite equipment. As you are aware, the earthquake in Sichuan province of China has caused severe losses to the affected areas in terms of human lives and properties. Our government is handling the disaster as a matter of top priority, mobilising all resources available for the rescue work and trying every effort to minimise the extent of damages as a result of the earthquake."

ITU has sent hand-held Thuraya satellite phones which use both satellite and GSM networks and also provide accurate GPS coordinates to aid relief and rescue operations. The ITU Framework for Cooperation in Emergencies (IFCE) has benefited from the generous contribution of funds and equipment from its partners: Inmarsat, Iridium, Thuraya, ICO Global Communications, Vizada, TerreStar Global, and FedEx. Thuraya has increased its contribution to the IFCE with an additional 100 handheld satellite phones, augmenting the 50 satellite phones it provided to ITU in 2006.

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