The UK is poised to help China deal with the devastation wrought by an earthquake that has killed around 10,000 people, Foreign Secretary David Miliband said.
Schools were among buildings toppled by the 7.9-magnitude quake, the country's worst for 30 years, with most of the casualties in the Sichuan province.
Mr Miliband said: "The UK stands ready to assist." He added it was "a further and tragic shock to a region already trying to handle the devastation in Burma".
"Emerging news of the loss of life and devastation in China is deeply saddening," he went on.
"My thoughts are with the Chinese people and those families who have suffered loss. The Chinese government are to be commended for their quick and efficient response."
A Beijing-based charity worker earlier predicted that the death toll would rise.
Dale Rutstein of Unicef China said he had only been able to get limited reports from the epicentre of the disaster in Sichuan Province.
He said: "It is very difficult, almost impossible to get through on the phone but we have had brief, sketchy, conversations with local press reporters who have backed up the main picture.
"I would expect the death toll to rise as Sichuan is one of the most populated provinces and one of the poorest.
"There are a lot of people living in marginal areas that are difficult to get to and a lot of the buildings in those areas are sub-standard and could collapse very quickly."