US helps China with satellite data on quake

WASHINGTON, May 16 - The United States has provided China with satellite images of earthquake-stricken areas, and will provide two planeloads of relief for quake victims this weekend, the State Department said on Friday.

"I think we have provided them some overhead imagery," the department's spokesman, Sean McCormack, told reporters.

China on Thursday had requested high-resolution imagery of the region surrounding the south-central Chinese city of Chengdu to help find victims and identify damaged infrastructure.

China has said it expects the death toll from the quake four days ago to exceed 50,000, and about 4.8 million people have lost their homes

The Bush administration has offered spy satellite images and analysis to foreign governments coping with natural disasters in recent years to help organize rescue and recovery operations.

U.S. satellite imagery could produce highly detailed pictures of damage to roads, railways, tunnels, ports and coastlines. An official at the Chinese Embassy in Washington said the data could also help save lives by locating desperate victims.

McCormack said the United States will send two C-17 military cargo planes -- the Pentagon's most modern strategic airlifter -- with relief supplies to China. They will carry tents, food, blankets, generators and other items, he said.

They will be the first U.S. relief supplies to be airlifted in to China since the quake. Earlier Washington had provided $500,000 in cash assistance to China through the Red Cross.

The Chinese government had put out a list of needed items, and the U.S. government chose items that it could provide, McCormack said, adding: "There is always the possibility of more."

Because it can use short and unfinished runways and has high maneuverability on the ground, the C-17 can operate in spots normally accessible only to smaller airlifters.

Asked about possible quake damage to Chinese nuclear facilities, McCormack said he was not aware of any information that would indicate a leak of nuclear material, but "it's something that we're watching."


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