Relief Efforts

China repairs new wound with experience from Wenchuan, Yushu

Updated: 2010-08-12 21:20
Large Medium Small

BEIJING - China's experience in disaster relief during two major earthquakes in 2008 and 2010 has helped authorities to move faster and more effectively in aiding the northwestern county of Zhouqu, leveled by mudslides on Sunday, experts said here Thursday.

"China launched an efficient and comprehensive relief campaign after the mudslides, gathering manpower, relief supplies and financial aid in a short period of time," said Dai Yanjun, deputy dean of study and research with the Party School of the Communist Party of China Central Committee.

"The country has learned its lesson from the past, and improved its emergency response measures over the years," Dai said.

At least 1,117 people died when massive mudslides swept down on sleeping residents in Zhouqu, a remote county of China's Gansu province. Another 627 are still missing as of Wednesday.

The tragedy added to the physical and emotional scar of the nation from the 8-magnitude Wenchuan earthquake, which had left more than 80,000 people dead or missing, and this April's 7.1-magnitude Yushu earthquake, with a toll of close to 2,700.

Yet, the country quickly reacted to save people's lives hours after Sunday's mudslides.

By 5 am Sunday, troops from China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) Lanzhou Military Area Command had already set out for Zhouqu for disaster relief, with an advance party reaching the county at 11 am.

The first batch of relief supplies consisting of 5,000 sleeping bags, 1,800 tents, 20,000 boxes of instant food and 20,000 crates of bottled water allocated by civil affairs authorities, were also en route for Zhouqu about eight hours after the mudslides hit.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao left Beijing for Zhouqu Sunday noon and set up a temporary State Council headquarters for relief and rescue work.

By 9:25 pm rescuers had saved more than 1,200 people who were trapped by the mudslides in Zhouqu.

"Zhouqu's relief work has been done in a highly efficient, scientific and orderly manner," Dai Yanjun said.

"The lessons we had learned from Wenchuan and Yushu were institutionalized and that is what made our disaster relief system mature," he said.

According to Dai, China had formed a set of emergency response measures in the case of natural disasters after the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake.

That was why the country had a fairly accurate assessment of the Yushu earthquake in terms of its scale and power soon after it struck Northwest Qinghai province on April 14, Dai said.

Meanwhile, the People's Liberation Army, which had played a leading role in both Wenchuan and Yushu's quake relief work, also improved its emergency relief capacities.

"The deployment speed of the troops and the armed police forces is impeccable," said Zhao Chengeng, a professor with Peking University's School of Government, adding that Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to Zhouqu also boosted the confidence of the people.

"China has matured in the emergency disaster relief with the experience from Wenchuan and Yushu earthquakes, among other natural disasters," he said.

His words were echoed by Wang Yukai, a professor with the Beijing-based Chinese Academy of Governance.

"The Chinese government's efforts to fight natural disasters has won wide support among the people," Wang said, adding that the relief work in Zhouqu showcased the improvement of the government's governance mechanism and capabilities.

"China's three decades of reform and opening-up drive has not only provided material resources to fight natural disasters, but also brought changes to its governance philosophy, enabling it to face the disaster more calmly," he said.