|Firefightering ships spray water on a blazing oil ship during a search and rescue exercise along the Yangtze River in Wanzhou, a port city in Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality Saturday, September 22, 2007. [Xinhua]
WANZHOU: The biggest search and rescue exercise along the Yangtze River was held on Saturday in this port city in Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality.
Organized by the Ministry of Communications and the Chongqing municipal government, the 2007 Yangtze Three Gorges Reservoir Joint Search and Rescue Maneuvre was aimed at testing and demonstrating the country's emergency response capabilities along the Yangtze, the world's busiest river in terms of cargo transportation, said officials from the Ministry of Communications.
Involving 22 departments, the 90-minute exercise involved the rescue of passengers in a boat collision, extinguishing a fire and clearing an oil leak as a result of the collision.
It also included the search and arrest of two terrorists and the removal of explosives, and the evacuation of passengers and boats from a site where a landslide was taking place.
More than 500 people 68 boats and a helicopter participated in the exercise, Yuan Zongxiang, chief of the Yangtze River Maritime Bureau, said.
Liu Dongcheng, deputy chief of the Maritime Bureau under the Ministry of Communications, said the exercise witnessed the use of the world's most advanced rescue equipment and the country's most advanced rescue boats.
The Yangtze River transported 897 million tons of cargo last year, maintaining its position as the world's largest river in terms of cargo transportation, Liu said.
The government attaches great importance to the development of the Yangtze River. During the 10th Five-Year Plan (2001-05), the country invested more than 3 billion yuan ($400 million) to improve navigation in the river during the dry season.
Wang Yang, Party chief of Chongqing, said the reason the exercise was held in Wanzhou was that it is located in the center of the Three Gorges dam area.
Since the Three Gorges Project started storing water in 2003, the reservoir area has witnessed improvement in navigation conditions and an increase in the number of boats.
There are 80,000 boats that ply the Yangtze. In the Three Gorges reservoir area alone, there are 50,000 boats with more than 300,000 boatmen.
"If an incident takes place, it could result in heavy loss of life and property," Yuan told China Daily.
Before the Three Gorges started storing water, the Yangtze River in the reservoir area was narrow, and the water flow swift and dangerous.