BEIJING - An emergency response and management office for geological disasters as well as a center to provide technical assistance will soon be established as China faces challenges in disaster prevention and reduction, the country's land watchdog revealed on Tuesday.
Wang Min, vice-minister of land and resources, said in a videoconference in Beijing on Tuesday that nearly 3,000 people died in geological disasters last year, quintupling the death toll for 2009.
A total of 30,670 geological disasters such as mudslides, landslides and collapses occurred, causing direct economic losses of 6.4 billion yuan ($970 million) in 2010, more than two and a half times that of 2009, according to the latest statistics from the ministry.
More than 2,300 people died or went missing in the 1,988 mudslides, and rains triggered 5,283 geological disasters from May to September in Gansu, Shaanxi, Yunnan, Sichuan and Guizhou provinces, the figures showed.
In August, devastating mudslides hit Zhouqu county of Northwest China's Gansu province, claiming 1,434 lives and leaving 331 people missing.
This year, the challenge is great since the national weather forecaster predicted more rain is on its way, Wang added.
According to the prediction, frequent rainstorms are likely to pose a high risk of disasters, including flooding and mudslides, in 2011.
Besides the weather, a great number of urban and rural construction projects are located in dangerous areas, which also pose increasing potential risks in triggering geological disasters, Wang said.
In early April, China authorized a plan to further harness its small and medium rivers and reinforce the country's small and medium dilapidated reservoirs to prevent large flood-triggered geological disasters, according to the statement released by the State Council.
Besides the emergency response and management office for geological disasters, the ministry will also establish a center to provide technical guidance on geological disaster emergency response.
The ministry required the local bureaus to organize at least one emergency rehearsal in disaster prevention before flood season and let residents know escape routes and locations of emergency shelters.
Expert teams will supervise the local anti-flooding facilities and check the maintenance of the reservoirs, Wang said.