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China ups disaster preparedness following devastating Wenchuan quake

05-06-2011 20:19 BJT Special Report:Wenchuan Quake 3 Years On |

by Xinhua writers Wu Chen, Yi Ling and Dang Wenbo

CHENGDU, May 6 (Xinhua) -- Three years after the devastating earthquake in southwest China's Sichuan Province, China has continued to sharpen its disaster reduction awareness and capacity.

Chief of Staff of the Sichuan Public Security Fire Department Fu Libing participated in the Wenchuan quake rescue and many other disaster rescue efforts.

Fu says that the Sichuan Provincial Rescue Team had 100 members when it was established in 2003. So far, it has grown to 800 members and is expected to take on 2,300 members in the next three years.

Newcomers will be trained at a specially-built base in Dujiangyan, a city one hour's drive from the provincial capital of Chengdu, and will also be sent abroad to learn from foreign counterparts.

Travelers on the expressway from Chengdu to Dujiangyan pass a prominent building leaning near the road, emblazoned with big, red characters that read, "Earthquake Damaged Building for Training."

It's one of the most important facilities on the training base and the largest of its kind in southwest China. The base was built after an 8.0-magnitude quake jolted Sichuan on May 12, 2008 and was officially put to use in August 2010.

Fu said the Disaster Reduction and Rescue Training Base offers training in fire protection, emergency relief, disaster reduction skills and basic physical performance.

"It also provides disaster education to the public," he said.

The devastating Wenchuan quake and other major natural disasters worldwide have made both government officials and the public more aware of the importance of China's disaster reduction efforts.

The recently released 12th Five Year Plan (2011-2015) includes policies urging the country to strengthen its disaster reduction system and improve public education on disaster reduction.

In 2009, May 12 was designated as the nation's "Disaster Reduction Day." Statistics show that more than 1,200 counties and 500 communities held disaster reduction training sessions on last year's "Disaster Reduction Day."

After the Wenchuan quake, risk prevention and disaster reduction became compulsory courses in local schools. Emergency evacuation, fire prevention and earthquake rescue exercises are regularly held in schools.

Liu Xia, a student at Beichuan High School, said she is well-versed in how to get out to safe place when a disaster occurs.

"Teachers have organized us for evacuation exercises. There are also barrier-free passages for disabled students," said the 17-year-old, who had been buried under debris for two days after the quake.

"I feel safe in our newly-built school," she said.

Sichuan Vice Governor Wei Hong said quality control has been the top priority during the rebuilding process, which will be completed by the end of September. Domestic and international experts have been invited to choose locations for rebuilding projects, as well as to guide and supervise construction procedures. Higher quake-resistance standards have been applied to building public facilities, such as schools and hospitals.

At the new Yingxiu Town of Wenchuan County, the epicenter of the 2008 earthquake, six emergency evacuation areas have been built.

Zhang Tongrong, county head of Wenchuan, said the evacuation areas can accommodate all of the town's 8,000 residents. Special evacuation passages have been designed so that all residents can be evacuated in two minutes.

Following the Wenchuan quake, international disaster reduction exchanges have been strengthened.

The Sichuan Provincial Rescue Team has sent members to the U.S., Republic of Korea, Russia and Japan to receive training and has invited foreign experts to Sichuan to give lectures on emergency rescue, according to Fu Libing.

Since its establishment, the training base has both worked with the Ministry of Civil Affairs to train 185 local officials in charge of disaster reduction in their units and cooperated with schools to teach the basics of risk prevention. More schools are planning to hold summer camp activities at the base, Fu said.

Chengdu and Baofeng County in central China's Henan Province have both signed on to the "Making Cities Resilient Campaign" (2010-2011) initiated by the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR).

The campaign aims to raise the awareness of citizens and governments at all levels of the benefits of reducing urban risks, identify budget allocations within local government funding plans to invest in disaster risk reduction activities, and include disaster risk reduction in urban development planning processes and protect critical infrastructure.

Helena Molin-Valdes, UNISDR Deputy Director, said UNISDR sees China as an important partner, especially to share information, expertise and to engage with developing countries.

"We are looking to Sichuan and Chengdu, as well, to start stronger city-to-city cooperation and we are planning the first Forum for Mayors in Disaster Risk Reduction in Chengdu in August this year. We hope this can develop into an important field for cooperation in the future," she said.



Editor:Zhang Pengfei |Source: Xinhua

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