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ImmD was also busy dealing with requests for help from Hong Kong residents in Sichuan. The department received 126 requests for assistance and 476 enquiries since the earthquake. Among the requests, there were 101 cases in which Hong Kong residents reportedly lost contact with their families, one injury and 24 other cases mainly involving the loss of travel documents or money.

The Social Welfare Department (SWD) announced shortly after the earthquake that its social workers and clinical psychologists were available to provide counselling and other welfare assistance to Hong Kong residents who had been affected by the Sichuan earthquake.

An SWD officer said the department would do all it could to help those who were emotionally disturbed or grieving. The clinical psychologists of SWD also provided crisis management briefing and other follow-up support service for members of the Hong Kong teams that were sent to Sichuan to help with the rescue as well as newspaper reporters who returned from covering the stories of the earthquake in Sichuan.

SWD and HKP join in relief efforts

SWD was also busy processing applications from organisations wanting to raise funds for the earthquake victims. The department has received a total of 287 applications as at June 10, and had issued 256 public subscription permits to raise funds in public places. Staff of SWD has worked till small hours for the first week after the earthquake to process these applications so that permits could be issued promptly for these organisations to raise funds from the people of Hong Kong to relieve the disaster.

Even agencies that could not offer direct relief aid came up with innovative ways to help the earthquake victims. Hongkong Post (HKP) held a fund raising auction of stamp products and banknotes on May 24 at the General Post Office.

The auction was conducted by Sotheby’s Hong Kong, which offered its service on a voluntary basis.

HKP produced a limited-edition of 10 frames of Mainland Scenery Series special stamp sheetlets and other prestige stamp products for the fund raising auction. Most of these products were last stocks from HKP’s stamp vault.

A total bid value of $1 million was received at the auction. With the generous support from the bidders, together with donations of over $160,000 from HKP staff and $200,000 from Sotheby’s Hong Kong, HKP raised a total of $1.36 million, which had been donated to the Home Affairs Department for emergency relief operations related to the Sichuan earthquake.

In addition, the giant pandas in Sichuan are not being neglected. HKP also produced Limited Edition Prestige Stamp Products with Giant Panda Paw Print of Ying Ying and Le Le (3,500 sets of Stamp Pack with Giant Panda Paw Print and 10 sets of Box Set with Clay Impression of Giant Panda Paw Print) to raise funds to support the rebuilding of panda facilities in Sichuan.

A total of $1.375 million was raised through the sale of the prestige products. All the proceeds have been donated to the Sichuan Earthquake Relief Giant Panda Base Rebuilding Fund set up by the Ocean Park Conservation Foundation ofHong Kong.

In response to the Secretary for the Civil Services’s appeal to all civil servants for donations to help the victims of the earthquake, many bureaux and departments launched donation drives to make donations to various relief organisations.

Hong Kong unified in show of respect

On May 19 at 2.28pm, civil servants joined with many of Hong Kong’s citizens in observing three minutes’ silence as a mark of respect for the victims of the earthquake. It was exactly a week since the devastating quake had hit Sichuan.

Even children joined in after the Secretary for Education issued a letter to all schools, kindergartens and child-care centres in Hong Kong appealing to staff and students to observe the three minutes’ silence. All schools that hoist the national flag flew it at half-mast from May 19 to 21.

The radio channels of RTHK relayed the mourning service of the China National Radio at 2.28pm.

To consolidate and sustain efforts to help rebuild Sichuan, RTHK also teamed up with Agency For Volunteer Service to launch a Sichuan Rebuild Volunteer Programme from June 2 to provide a platform for contributors in Hong Kong to commit 100 hours of volunteer service in the coming five years for the after care of the devastated areas. In less than one month, over 4,500 individuals and 30 organisations have enrolled in the programme.