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Qinghai earthquake: Europe offers China assistance from space

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Following the 7.1-magnitude quake that hit Qinghai on Wednesday, leaving more than 600 people killed and some 10,000 people injured, the EU has moved to assist China in its response to the emergency.

"I am deeply shocked and saddened by the news coming in on the earthquake in China's Qinghai Province. I would like to express the solidarity of the European Commission with the Chinese authorities and people and offer our assistance. My thoughts and heartfelt condolences go out to the families of the victims and the people of the Qinghai Province who are confronted with this disaster." Statement by President Barroso, 14 April

Through its Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) initiative, Europe is to provide very high resolution optical satellite and radar images of the disaster zone. The images will focus on a 30 square kilometre area that has been identified in the Yushu County near the epicentre.

On the basis of these images, the GMES emergency response project SAFER is able to assess damage on infrastructure such as roads and bridges, and also identify landslides that may have been caused by the earthquake in the mountainous disaster area on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, which lies at an altitude above 4,000 meters.

Information about landslides is particularly critical in the days and weeks following an earthquake, since rivers might have been blocked by the slides, causing artificial dams to build up that once the water eventually brakes through might flood areas further downstream.

SAFER will transmit information to the Chinese National Disaster Reduction Centre by means of GMES 'situation maps'. Delivery is expected within the next 48 hours.

SAFER GMES emergency response assistance was requested immediately following the earthquake on Wednesday by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) through the World Food Programme (WFP).

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