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Ministry to better equip rural areas against disasters

Hou Liqiang
Updated: Aug 23,2019 09:22    China Daily

The country's top emergency management apparatus plans to roll out a series of measures to enhance anti-natural disaster capability in more vulnerable rural and poverty-stricken areas.

Zheng Guoguang, vice-minister of emergency management, said natural disasters usually result in larger casualties in such areas, though the economic losses there pale in comparison with more densely populated urban areas.

The major reason for the differences is the poor anti-disaster capability in underdeveloped areas.

"Currently, rural areas in China are the weakest in terms of disaster prevention, mitigation and relief, "Zheng said at a news conference, citing Typhoon Lekima, the recent disaster that claimed at least 57 lives and left another 14 missing, as an example.

Geological disasters caused by the typhoon in mountainous areas were to blame for two-thirds of the total causalities, and most of the houses that collapsed during Lekima are in rural areas, he said.

Zheng also said about 70 percent of the counties that fall into the national poverty-stricken area list are prone to disasters following rainstorms.

The ministry, together with four other government bodies including the ministries of water resources and finance, will launch seven campaigns as it ratchets up efforts to upgrade anti-disaster capabilities in rural, underdeveloped areas, according to Zheng.

With intensified efforts to remove safety hazards and strengthen monitoring and early warnings, these campaigns also include projects for comprehensive management of geological disasters, the relocation of residents in disaster-prone areas, the upgrading of flood control facilities and reinforcement of residential buildings, he said.

He said the ministry will also endeavor to establish emergency rescue teams at the grassroots level.

"With emergency resources and powers fully integrated," the ministry will also "make efforts to cover grassroots areas with specific emergency plans".

The civilian rescue teams will be further mobilized to help these underdeveloped areas fight natural disasters, he added.

According to the Ministry of Emergency Management, natural disasters have forced nearly 4.4 million people to evacuate and have left 627 people dead or missing since June.

Without comparing the number of people who evacuated, the ministry said the death toll is 23.2 percent lower compared with the average of the past five years for the same period. The country also saw the direct economic loss from these disasters go down by 2.3 percent from the past five years' average to 215.3 billion yuan ($30.4 billion).

To fight these disasters, more than 14,400 members from fire and rescue teams across the country were involved in over 13,000 tasks for flood control. Over 4.6 billion yuan earmarked for disaster relief was dispatched to the five worst-hit regions, including Jiangxi and Hunan provinces. Materials sent to flood-plagued areas included 18,000 tents and 66,000 folding beds, according to the ministry.

Ye Jianchun, the vice-minister of water resources and emergency management, said 549 major rivers stricken by floods nationwide have seen their water levels increase above the warning line since June, which is more than the average every year since 1998.

He said typhoons may continue to wreak havoc in the near future, with Typhoon Bailu expected to land in Taiwan on Aug 23 or 24 and then in Fujian province on Aug 25.