Disaster Lessons From China

Beijing China, which annually faces almost every disaster possible – including earthquakes, floods, cyclones and landslides – is doing something right in the field of disaster risk reduction (DRR), experts say.

In 2012, the world’s most populated nation, home to more than 1.3 billion inhabitants, saw 23 natural disasters or almost two a month, the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) reported… In the same year the Chinese government also spent some $14 billion on DRR and relief efforts.

Emphasis is (now being) placed on cooperation and coordination particularly in emergency response, which is led by the public security bureau, police and military, and supported by the Red Cross and other volunteer groups.

After a M7.0 earthquake in Yaan Province, China - and huge amounts of rain to come.
After a M7.0 earthquake in Yaan Province, China – and huge amounts of rain to come while others face drought and serious shortage of drinking water

A 7.0 magnitude earthquake in China’s southwestern Sichuan Province on 20 April triggered the highest level 1 response mobilizing both national and provincial rescue and support teams.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 207 people were killed, 11,500 were injured, and more than 1.5 million people were affected across 69 counties.

…initial reports….suggest the response was swift with relief items arriving within hours and 136 medical teams operational by the following morning, supported by over 18,000 military and police.

The largest earthquake to strike China in recent years – on 12 May 2008 – was also in Sichuan, killing over 80,000, thousands of them children. It triggered a strong public outcry over the collapse of school buildings due to shoddy construction and allegations of corruption.

“Some disasters, such as earthquakes, will kill a lot of people regardless of how well prepared you are,” CRED director Debby Guha-Sapir told IRIN. “What is important is how good the response is and China’s response to the Sichuan earthquake was close to exemplary.”

However, floods and droughts are major problems in China.

Earlier this month, China’s State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters reported some 3.5 million hectares of cropland in Yunnan, Gansu, Henan, Sichuan and Hubei were suffering from drought conditions, resulting in millions short of drinking water.


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