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National Emergency Response Command Center to Be Set up
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A national emergency response command center will be set up in Beijing with an investment of hundreds of millions of yuan, the Shanghai Securities News reported Thursday.

Equipped with eight disaster-monitoring satellites, the command center will report directly to the country's leaders, the paper said, citing Feng Qiang, a researcher from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who did not reveal when the center would become operational.

Currently China's disaster management capabilities are distributed among different government departments, including the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the Ministry of Water Resources and the China Meteorological Administration.

Each department is capable of managing a single disaster but precautionary measures and emergency response are not adequate to protect lives and property in the absence of a centralized organ to pool all the information and take command, said Feng.

The United Nations has estimated that losses can be reduced by 30 to 40 percent if adequate precautions are taken, the paper said.

The report says that meteorological disasters and fallout from fast economic growth are causing higher economic losses in China, and the country needs a command center to coordinate efforts in tackling this type of situation.

"The higher the economic density, the greater the potential losses", said Feng, citing Hurricane Katrina as an example, which caused the United States economic losses of 100 to 200 billion U.S. dollars.

Seventy percent of China's natural disasters are meteorological disasters - including droughts, rainstorms, floods and tropical storms - which affect 600 million people every year, with economic losses amounting to three to six percent of the country's gross domestic product.

(Xinhua News Agency December 14, 2006)

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