Disaster response gets a helping hand

Updated: 2013-10-14 01:00

By He Dan (China Daily)

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China has improved its disaster response by building an emergency supplies network, but disaster relief efforts by the government still struggle to meet people's diverse needs, said a senior official from the country's top disaster relief department.

"We can distribute tents, food, drinking water, clothes and quilts to people affected in 12 hours or less after a natural disaster takes place," Li Baojun, deputy head of the office of the National Commission for Disaster Reduction, told China Daily ahead of the International Day for Disaster Reduction on Sunday.

He said China has established a four-tier disaster relief material storage network: 18 central-level disaster relief material bases in transport hubs nationwide, all provincial capitals, some 93 percent of cities and 80 counties have set up warehouses for disaster response in their regions.

From January to September, natural disasters claimed more than 1,700 lives and affected some 376 million people. Direct economic losses reached 517 billion yuan ($84.5 billion).

The latest major disaster occurred in eastern China's Zhejiang province, which has been savaged by Typhoon Fitow since Oct 7. By early Sunday morning, seven people were dead and two missing, and 6,700 buildings had collapsed or were severely damaged. Some 1.24 million people were relocated to temporary shelters.

An official named Zhang, who is in charge of relief material management in the Ministry of Civil Affairs, said on Sunday that local governments usually take a leading role in disaster relief while the central government provides funds and materials if needed.

However, the government in Yuyao, the area worst hit by heavy rains in Zhejiang, has been criticized by netizens for not doing enough to relieve the woes caused by Typhoon Fitow. Many trapped in the flood ran out of food and clean water for a few days.

About 70 percent of the city was submerged, and the flood paralyzed traffic, caused blackouts and cut off water supplies for days.

Zhu Yuejuan, deputy head of the Yuyao civil affairs bureau, said her bureau allocated relief funds to subdistrict offices and villages, and the later sent out relief supplies including instant noodles, bread and water.

"We spared no effort giving out relief materials by canoe but the distribution work was not good enough as the city was hit by the heaviest rainfall in a century," she said.

Li from the National Commission for Disaster Reduction acknowledged that although China has improved its storage network for relief materials, the materials in government-run storage centers are still far from enough to meet people's diverse needs.

He said some provinces including Anhui have piloted projects by signing contracts with logistics companies to store materials.

Hao Nan, a volunteer in Beijing, said it is urgent to improve communities' capacities in mutual aid, including designating at least one coordinator for disaster relief work in every residential building.

Wang Zhenghua in Shanghai and Liu Yiran in Beijing contributed to this story.