By 6 p.m. Thursday, four Chinese air force Ilyushin II-76 military transport aircraft had finished their missions of flying relief materials to southern areas affected by severe winter weather.
The People's Liberation Army (PLA) announced on early Thursday that the General Staff Department had ordered the aircraft to carry quilts and winter coats from bases in Xi'an city, Shaanxi Province, and Changzhi city, Shanxi Province, to south China.
"After receiving a request for air assistance from the State Disaster Relief Commission, the four military carriers immediately suspended their military tasks and flew to the appointed bases in 40 minutes," said Lieutenant-Colonel Chen Zheming, of the PLA emergency response group.
One aircraft took off at 1:17 a.m. on Thursday from Changzhi and landed at Nanning, capital of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, at 3:57 a.m.
The four transport aircraft still have 11 relief flights to complete.
In response to a request by Hunan Province, the air force will also fly electricians to the provincial capital, Changsha, from Leiyang City via II-76 military transport aircraft.
More than 100 aircraft and helicopters have been on standby, according to air force sources.
"PLA headquarters and relevant military districts have had tanks and armored cars on standby and they can be put into use to break ice on the roads at the request of local governments," said Senior Colonel Tian Yixiang of the same emergency response group.
"Whenever there is a disaster, the military is obliged to take part in the relief work," Tian said. "This is an obligation required by the Constitution and the laws.
"When manpower is in need, we send our men. When goods are in need, we offer our goods," he said.
By 6 p.m. Wednesday, the PLA and armed police had sent a total of 207,000 person times in the fight against the snow-caused disaster.
The PLA donated 419,000 quilts and 219,000 cotton-padded coats to disaster-affected areas, which will be transported by rail, road and air.
On Monday, the PLA issued a decree ordering troops to go all out to combat the lingering heavy snow in the southern part of the country. The troops should give whatever assistance local governments required for fighting the disaster and rescuing people, the decree said.
(Xinhua News Agency February 1, 2008)