“We do not yet know the extent of the tragedy,” Mr. Ban told journalists at a press conference at UN Headquarters in New York. “But you have seen the reports of the hundreds of students trapped at a local university, and potentially many others are dead. My thoughts are very much with them and their families.” In a separate statement issued by his spokesperson, the Secretary-General said he was deeply saddened by the loss of life and destruction of property, and extended his condolences to the families of the victims. “The United Nations stands ready to support the Government of China in its efforts to respond to the humanitarian needs caused by the disaster,” the statement added. Media reports said the earthquake, measuring about 7.8 on the Richter scale, was centred in Sichuan Province and struck early in the afternoon local time. Local authorities have reported that thousands of people are dead and the toll is expected to keep rising. In a separate statement released by his spokesperson, Mr. Kerim extended his support to Chinese authorities as they attempt to mitigate the after-effects of the earthquake. He “welcomes the readiness of the international community – including and especially on the part of the United Nations system – to assist the country and the people of China to overcome the immediate humanitarian as well as longer-term infrastructural effects of the devastation of this natural catastrophe.” 12 May 2008Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim have voiced their sorrow and sympathy for the victims of the earthquake that struck south-western China today, killing thousands of people, and pledged the support of the United Nations in any humanitarian efforts following the disaster.