BEIJING - China is willing to continue working with foreign countries in disaster prevention and relief in future, the Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.
Members of a rescue team from Singapore search for survivors in the quake-hit Hongbai Town of Shifang City in southwest China's Sichuan Province, May 17, 2008. [Xinhua]
"We greatly appreciate some countries for their requests to send professional rescue teams after the major earthquake in Wenchuan, Sichuan Province," spokesman Qin Gang told a press conference.
The Chinese authorities have acted "fast and efficiently" since receiving applications from foreign rescue teams, he said. Qin was replying to a question on whether there was delay during the procedure of approval as several foreign teams arrived in the quake zone 72 hours after the disaster, missing the "golden" chance for saving survivors.
He linked the delay of rescuers' arrival to damaged transport facilities and aftershocks.
The May 12 earthquake seriously damaged local infrastructure, especially roads and telecommunications facilities, he said. "This added up the difficulties for rescue work in the early stage. Not mentioning foreign rescuers, even domestic ones could not reach the sites at the earliest time."
Many roads were blocked and inaccessible to vehicles. "It would take more than 10 hours to cover a distance that took two or three hours before the quake. And there were frequent aftershocks."
According to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, four rescue teams from Japan, Russia, Republic of Korea (ROK) and Singapore participated in the quake rescue task.
Nine medical teams with 223 members from countries including Britain, Japan, Russia, Italy, France, Cuba, Indonesia, Pakistan and Germany were working in quake-hit Sichuan and Gansu provinces. They had treated more than 6,400 patients.