News at Tipitaka Network
Buddhists launch disaster relief efforts for Sichuan earthquake
Compiled by Tipitaka Network Newsdesk, Sunday, May 18, 2008
The Sichuan earthquake measured at 7.9 Mw occurred at 2:28pm local time on 12 May 2008 in Sichuan province of China. The earthquake's epicenter, Wenchuan County in Sichuan, was 80 kilometres west-northwest of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan, with a depth of 19 kilometres. The earthquake was felt as far away as Beijing (1,500 km away) and Shanghai (1,700 km away), where office buildings swayed with the tremor. The earthquake was also felt in nearby countries.
Official death toll on May 18 reached 32,477, including 31,978 in Sichuan province, and 220,109 injured. The Chinese government warned that the death toll could soar to 50,000. Tens of thousands are missing, approximately 14,000 of them buried, and eight provinces were affected. The earthquake left about 4.8 million people homeless. It was the deadliest and strongest earthquake to hit China since the 1976 Tangshan earthquake, which killed at least 240,000 people.
On May 15, volunteers and planeloads of more than 150 metric tons of relief goods from Taiwan arrive in the disaster area, marking the launch of the first ever joint relief operation between Taiwan and China. Twenty-six volunteers from the Buddhist organizations Tzu Chi Foundation and Dharma Drum Mountain Foundation departed in early morning to join their organizations' other members who were already posted in different cities in China for relief missions.
Two charter flights took off from the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport on May 15, carrying the relief goods, including tents, sleeping bags, blankets, and medical supplies. The items were donated by members and supporters of several Taiwanese religious and charity organizations, including the Red Cross Society (RCS) of the Republic of China, Buddhist Compassionate Relief Tzu Chi Foundation, the Buddhist Fo Guang Shan Temple Foundation, Dharma Drum Mountain Foundation, and the Ling Jiou Mountain Foundation. The Air Macau charter flight, carrying around 46 tons of relief goods aboard, departed for Sichuan's Shuangliu International Airport at 10am and landed at around 1pm. Another flight provided by China Airlines carried 110 tonnes of relief items from charity groups in a Boeing 747-400 full cargo plane which departed at 5pm and arrived at 8:30 pm.
Buddhists around the world have mobilised to help victims of the earthquake. Monetary donations and relief materials continue pouring in from all sources. University of Hawai'i students held a vigil for earthquake victims in China on May 15. Tzu Chi Hawaii is also raising money for earthquake victims this weekend in Chinatown. Tzu Chi branches throughout the United States and Canada began fund-raising efforts Monday (May 12) upon hearing of the massive quake. Its Montreal branch in Verdun organises a fundraising dinner on May 19 for earthquake victims. Tzu Chi does not have a volunteer network in Sichuan province, however, they have already mobilized volunteers from Shanghai, Beijing, Fuchien and Canton to gather information and evaluate the destruction. More than 40,000 blankets, instant noodles, rice, water and medical supplies have already been delivered to local volunteers on May 15, according to Tzu Chi spokesperson Sherry Shih.
Chinese Xinhua news also reported that Tibetan Buddhists had organised services to pray for the earthquake victims. Donation ceremonies were also held.
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