Chinese President Hu Jintao (R) comforts a baby at a relief center in Shifang city, southwest China's Sichuan Province, May 18, 2008. President Hu, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), arrived in Shifang City to console the victims and rescuers on Sunday morning.(Xinhua Photo)
SHIFANG, Sichuan, May 18 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Hu Jintao on Sunday asked rescuers to use "every available means" to reach every village affected by the May 12 earthquake in southwest China.
"We must try every method to send rescuers to every quake-hit village, instead of just working in towns and cities, since a large number of soldiers have entered the quake-hit regions," said Hu, while visiting Yinghua township of Shifang city, Sichuan Province.
More than 32,000 people have been confirmed dead in the 8.0-magnitude earthquake hitting northwest Sichuan. Shifang is one of the cities seriously damaged.
Hu asked local officials to dispatch rescue teams and materials waiting in the cities and counties to towns and villages as soon as possible to collect damages and real situations at grassroots.
"We must send rescue teams, carrying food and drinking water, to the worst-hit villages, even on foot, as soon as possible," Hu said, traveling on bumpy roads to visit one quake-hit villages to another, comforting victims and encouraging rescuers.
He was surrounded by wailing women when he visited a temporary shelter camp at Yinghua.
"I know you lost family and property. I share the pain with you," he said. "We will try every effort to save your people once there is the slightest hope and possibility."
Hu also hugged an 8-year-old boy when visiting a family in the camp and told him, "You must learn to be brave and not to surrender to difficulties even if you are a child. We shall have confidence, courage and strength."
The president told people living in the town that more than 100,000 troopers of the People's Liberation Army and armed policemen have been assembled and on their ways to each quake-hit villages.
Hu Jintao arrived in the quake-hit province on May 16 to oversee disaster rescue, relieving Premier Wen Jiabao who had stayed there for about 88 hours after the quake.
Walking over the rubble of a fertilizer factory building, Hu told the rescuers working at the site that every trapped person was counting on them and they should seize every second to work as time was limited.
"I truly believe that the heroic Chinese people will not yield to any difficulty!" he shouted to a group of rescuers.
During his visit, Hu met Xiong Shujuan, a university student studying in Beijing who came back home in Shifang the day before the quake. Xiong joined volunteer relief work after losing her grandfather in the quake.
Hu praised Xiong's tough performance and a spirit of dedication, encouraging her to build up confidence for more quake survivors.
Special report: Strong Earthquake Jolts SW China