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A Russian Mi-26 helicopter left for China on Saturday carrying
A Russian Mi-26 helicopter left for China on Saturday carrying two rescue teams to help with the relief operation following the May 12 earthquake that has left over 60,000 dead, the emergencies ministry said.

The helicopter took off from Khabarovsk in Russia's Far East, near the Chinese border, the ministry's press service said in a statement.

The teams will be working round the clock in the disaster-hit region.

"The Mi-26 helicopter is the largest in the world, and is able to carry 20 tons of freight at a time, including heavy equipment. In China it will be delivering goods and equipment to regions that are difficult to access, for victims of the disaster," the statement said.

The Russian rescuers, sent on a request from China, will take part in the search for people trapped under the rubble.

Later today Russia will send nine military planes to China carrying equipment for the ongoing relief operation, Gen. Vladimir Isakov, a deputy defense minister, told RIA Novosti.

Isakov said the planes will deliver "23 mobile kitchens, 300 large army tents, and 3,000 woolen blankets."

Eight of the planes will be Il-76s flying from the Domna airbase in Chita, East Siberia, and one will be an An-124, which is now being loaded at the Chkalovsky airbase near Moscow.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said on Saturday that the death toll in the Sichuan province could rise to 80,000 as most of the missing are presumed dead.

The disaster has left over five million people homeless.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who arrived in the town of Yingxiu in the Sichuan province this morning to see the ongoing relief operation, pledged the UN's support in relief and reconstruction work. The UN has so far allocated $8 million for emergency aid to the region.

The Chinese government has pledged 70 billion yuan ($10 billion) for reconstruction work.


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