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Opinion ... ...
    Emergency response system saves lives

2005-09-14 06:08

While the United States' Hurricane Katrina comes to an end, China's eastern coastal regions are braving the attack of a typhoon that is smaller in magnitude but equally as capable of causing severe human and material damages.

The storm has ripped up trees and power lines, flattened houses, closed schools, inundated roads and damaged reservoirs.

As Typhoon Khanun, the 15th this year to hit the country, ground its way inland from Monday, millions of people have been evacuated amidst rising death toll and mounting property losses. At least 14 were killed and Zhejiang Province, the hardest hit region, suffered damage of up to 6.89 billion yuan (US$850 million) alone.

We express the deepest sorrow and solace for those dead and their families. The country needs to further muster its strength and wisdom to combat the fatal wind and storm and restore social order in the affected areas.

The havoc caused by Hurricane Katrina, while teaching us a lesson about the power of nature, displays how awful it is when the devil of anarchy is released in a major disaster.

Fortunately, the typhoon we have met seems much less ferocious, causing far fewer casualties, and fewer adverse effects on local stability.

Evacuation has been well operated in a relatively orderly manner hours before the storm arrived.

It is not sheer luck, however, nor the smaller magnitude of the disaster that has led to fewer casualties in the typhoon disaster.

It is the emergency response system that has been repeatedly groomed during previous disasters that has saved so many lives.

China is far from free of devastating typhoons.

A typhoon in 1956 killed nearly 5,000 people in Zhejiang. A storm that swept through the province in August 1994 claimed 1,126 lives. And Typhoon Rananim, which occurred last August and was the strongest in the country since 1956, killed 164 people.

The decreasing death toll over the years signifies that lessons have been learned from past experiences, improving preparations for hasty natural disasters.

Based on media reports, the local governments have taken proper measures to protect people's lives and their property.

Meteorological equipment has been updated to better monitor the movement of typhoons. Facilities have been improved. Constructions have been halted and people living in dilapidated houses been moved quicker to safer places after a typhoon warning is issued. And the public can be informed of immediate developments.

We used to struggle when facing such major natural disasters because we used to lack the well-operated emergency response mechanisms that we have today, which ensure that we are more calm and efficient.

Our emergency response system is yet to stand the test of a natural disaster in the magnitude of Hurricane Katrina. Our typhoon tracking equipment is yet to be made more accurate and how to minimize losses is another major issue, especially for farmers in those coastal areas.

But at least we are forging ahead in improving our response and relief system to reduce damage, human or material, in natural disasters.

Such a system can mean life or death for many when disaster hits.

(China Daily 09/14/2005 page4)


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