U.S. Examining Satellite Images of China Quake Area

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. intelligence analysts are examining spy satellite images of China's Sichuan province, where a powerful earthquake is believed to have killed 3,000 to 5,000 people, a defense official said on Monday.

The official said the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, or NGA, was assessing high-altitude imagery as a routine step taken whenever a natural disaster or another major event occurs someplace in the world.

U.S. spy satellites and other high-altitude surveillance platforms can produce highly detailed pictures of damage to roads, railways, tunnels, ports and coastlines.

The defense official declined to comment on what the images of China show.

NGA is part of the Pentagon and analyzes overhead pictures from U2 spy planes and Defense Department satellites.

In recent years, the Bush administration has offered satellite images and analysis to foreign governments coping with natural disaster to help organize rescue and recovery operations.

There was no immediate word about whether Washington was preparing to offer assistance to China.

(Reporting by David Morgan)

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