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ITER staff collect money for earthquake victims in China

-Sabina Griffith

Hundreds of thousands in central China are sleeping outdoors for fear of more tremors after Saturday's earthquake. Photo: BBC  (Click to view larger version...)
Hundreds of thousands in central China are sleeping outdoors for fear of more tremors after Saturday's earthquake. Photo: BBC
Measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale, the earthquake that occurred in the Sichuan Province of China at 0628 GMT on Monday 12 May was the most severe earthquake China has experienced in the last 30 years. More than 50,000 people are feared dead in the Sichuan Province alone. The epicentre of the earthquake was in the Wenchuan region, 95 kilometres north-west of Sichuan's capital Chengdu with its population of 10 million people.

Like Youkun Fu, a member of the ITER Tokamak Divison, most of the Chinese ITER staff are from the Chengdu region. When Youkun heard the news about the earthquake, he immediately tried to contact his wife and relatives back in Dujingyan — without any success. Most of the telephone lines were destroyed, the mobile network had collapsed. Then, on the second day, he was relieved to receive the text message: Everybody fine!

Xiaoyu Wang, who also works in the ITER Tokamak Division, is from Jiangyou, north of Chengdu, a mere 20 kilometres away from the earthquake's epicentre. His parent's house has been severely damaged, he says, his parents currently live in a tent they put up in a park together with many hundred other families. The people are not yet allowed to return to their houses as aftershocks are still occurring.

While the situation in Jiangyou remains disastrous, in Chengdu itself the situation seems to stabilize day by day. "Water, gas, and electricity are working again," another colleague from China, Caipin Zhou, reports. "After having spent the last three days in her car outside the city limits, my wife yesterday dared to return to our apartment."

While the tokamak in the Southwestern Institute of Physics (SWIP) was not damaged, as Dr. Pengyuan Li, a visiting scientist from SWIP currently working for ITER in Cadarache, confirmed, the news about the Dongfang Turbine Factory in Deyong 90 kilometres northeast of Chengdu came as a shock to the Chinese group gathered in Youkun Fu's office this morning. The company, one of the major cooporation partners of the ITER project in SWIP and a potential manufacturer for the ITER magnet supports and blanket, was almost completely destroyed by the earthquake - and with it the company's school. Almost all children inside the building are reported to be dead, Youkun Fu said.

In order to support the victims, the Chinese staff together with some colleagues from Japan and Korea spontaneously collected money which they handed over to the Consulate-General of China in Marseille last week. On behalf of the ITER Organization, ITER Director-General Kaname Ikeda sent a letter to Dr. Wan Gang, the Minister of Science and Technology of China and to Professor Pan Chuanhong, President of SWIP, expressing his condolences: Ï am deeply shocked and saddened by the loss of life and the scale of the devastation caused by the earthquake. Mere words cannot express our feelings in the face of such suffering. But on behalf of myself, and the ITER Organization, we would like to offer our heartfelt sympathy and condolences to all the victims of this terrible tragedy."

Anyone who wants to help and make a donation should contact the Chinese Consul General in Marseille:

Consul General: Song Binglin, 20, boulevard Carmagnole, 13008 Marseille, France Tel:+33-491320017 (24 hours) or +33-491320000 Fax:+33-491320008 / 491320004 E-mail: chinaconsul_mar_fr@mfa.gov.cn


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