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Dalai lama Offers Condolences to Earthquake Victims

The Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, issued a statement saying he is deeply saddened by the loss of life and is exploring how he can contribute to relief efforts.

Chinese officials are rushing aid to the western part of the country after a powerful earthquake Wednesday that killed at least 400 people and injured more than 10,000 in the mountainous Tibetan Plateau.

The 6.9 magnitude quake toppled buildings, destroyed roads and knocked out power and phone lines in Qinghai province, which borders Tibet. The quake was followed by a series of strong aftershocks, the largest with a magnitude of 6.3. The main quake was centered in the ethnic Tibetan county of Yushu, in the southern part of Qinghai.

Rescuers are working to dig out those trapped in rubble. Hundreds of troops have been dispatched to the region to assist in the effort.

The Dalai Lama said he would organize a special prayer service in his home in exile, Dharamsala, in northern India and would explore ways in which he could help.

"We pray for those who have lost their lives in this tragedy and their families and others who have been affected," the Dalai Lama said in a statement.

"A special prayer service is being held at the main temple (Tsuglagkhang) here at Dharamsala on their behalf," said the Buddhist leader who is at loggerheads with the Chinese leadership over the future of Tibet.

"It is my hope that all possible assistance and relief work will reach these people. I am also exploring how I, too, can contribute to these efforts," the Dalai Lama said, without elaborating.

The state-run Xinhua news agency says President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have ordered local authorities to go all out to save those affected.

Yushu county has a population of about 100,000 people, most of them herders and farmers. Many of the houses and buildings in the area are made of mud and wood.

The U.S. Geological Survey says the powerful quake was centered 240 kilometers north of Qamdo prefecture, which borders China's Sichuan province. Just two years ago, a massive 7.9 magnitude quake hit Sichuan, killing nearly 90,000 people.

The China Earthquake Administration estimated the magnitude of Wednesday's quake at 7.1, slightly higher than the U.S. Geological Survey reported.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.