China / Government

China helps Maldives out of water thirst

By ZHANG YUNBI ( Updated: 2014-12-08 19:11

China helps Maldives out of water thirst

Members of the Chinese Navy connect the water supply pipeline after the Changxindao drops anchor in Male, Nov 8, 2014. [Photo/]

A navy ship and aircraft dashed to the Maldives on Monday with tonnes of fresh supplies to battle a water crisis on the Indian Ocean archipelago.

A navy supply ship docked in the capital after a 50-hour journey after two aircraft of the People's Liberation Army's Air Force had landed with 40 tons of fresh water.

The Changxingdao dropped anchor in Male and immediately started to pump drinking water to the residents who had been deprived of tap water since a fire knocked a treatment plant out of service on Thursday.

China had already sent 20 tons of bottled drinking water on two flights on Saturday. Apart from fresh water the ship also has desalination equipment on board that can treat sea water to make it drinkable.

As the pump engines roared into action, the ship's captain, Zhang Ge, said it will take about 10 hours to pump the 600 tons of fresh water. Once that operation is completed, the ship will up anchor and position itself just outside the harbor before turning on the deslination equipment.

"This will allow daily production of 70 tons of desalinated water," Zhang said.

Water services to Male were disrupted on Thursday after a crippling fire damaged crucial components of the island's sole desalination facility the Male Water and Sewerages Company (MWSC), leaving thousands of people without water.

Local authorities acknowledged that damage to the plant is extensive and could take between three days and a week to fully repair.

A brief welcoming ceremony was held as the Chinese ship docked.

The Chinese government has pledged to assist the Maldives in tackling the water shortage, a statement from the embassy said on Saturday.

"As a friendly neighboring country, China shares an empathy with the Maldives people enduring the water crisis, and will provide all humanitarian assistance within its capacity," Hong Lei, Foreign Ministry spokesman said at a daily news conference in Beijing on Monday.

The strong ties between the two countries were clearly empahised by the fact that the Maldives was chosen as the first stop of President Xi Jinping's South Asia tour in September.

The Chinese government has arranged for all commercial flights out of China to Male to be loaded with drinking water. The first batch, on Saturday morning, carried 15 tons of bottled water.

According to the Foreign Ministry, as of on Monday, 85 tons of drinking water had been provided by the Chinese government and Chinese businesses in Sri Lanka and the Maldives via civil flights.

"The Chinese side will actively respond to the need of the Maldives and be ready for follow-up assistance measures," Hong Lei said.

The government has donated $500,000 to the Maldives government for initial plant repairs, a senior Maldives official said on Sunday though the Maldive government believes that the full cost of getting the plant operational again could hit the region of $20 million.

Maldives is also looking to other countries for help.

"Discussions are ongoing with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and other Arab governments. We hope to get monetary aid from them," Maldives Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim told reporters.

Male has a population of about 103,000. The Maldives government has set up water distribution centers at schools and other public spaces, with each person allowed two 1.5 litre bottles.

The Maldives are a popular travel destination and the group of 1,190 coral islands off the coast of India is visited by 750,000 tourists annually.

Xinhua contributed to this story.

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