Page last updated at 08:56 GMT, Sunday, 3 August 2008 09:56 UK

Quake-hit Sichuan welcomes torch

Chinese wave flags at the Sichuan torch relay, 03/08
The Sichuan relay was postponed because of the quake

The Olympic torch has been greeted by flag-waving crowds in China's Sichuan province, parts of which were hit by a devastating earthquake in May.

The relay began with a minute's silence in Guang'an city, honouring almost 70,000 people killed in the quake.

Later, the streets of the city echoed with shouts of "go China" and "go Olympics" from the enthusiastic crowds.

Sichuan is the last stop for the flame before it heads to Beijing for Friday's opening ceremony of the Games.

The torch was initially planned to visit Sichuan in mid-June, but that was postponed because of the quake.

'Sichuan's spirit'

The first torchbearer on the 90-minute run around Guang'an was police officer Jiang Min, who lost 10 relatives in the catastrophe, including her parents and her two-year-old daughter.

China torch map
Use the map to see the full Olympic torch relay route or read about some of the key cities:

"I will bring the Olympic spirit to my work and we can rebuild the homeland through our joint efforts," she told the state-run Xinhua news agency after finishing her leg.

Correspondents say the Sichuan section is likely to be an emotional and poignant one.

Government worker Li Lei, who joined the exuberant crowds, told the Associated Press how he cried when the torch run began.

"For my parents and my family who were greatly affected by the disaster, this is of tremendous significance," said the 28-year-old.

"For the Olympic spirit and for Sichuan's spirit, this is a great thing."

Guang'an is about 190 miles (300km) from the epicentre of the quake and escaped largely unscathed.

Reconstruction efforts have continued in earnest since the disaster, which left about five million people homeless.

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