China urgently needs to upgrade its ability to combat natural disasters and accidents and improve its mediocre emergency aid mechanisms, experts said Monday.
"In most Chinese cities, a number of departments - fire fighting, earthquake and meteorology - all have some responsibility for emergency aid, but there is no effective coordination between them," an expert pointed out at the annual conference of the China Association for Science.
"The challenge represented by natural disasters is growing, so China urgently needs to build an emergency aid team that can handle emergencies more effectively in order to reduce casualties," said Chen Fei, director of the fire fighting department under the Shanghai city government.
Chen said the public has little knowledge of emergency aid and should be taught first aid skills so that they can help out in a disaster.
In the period 2002 to 2005, the Red Cross Society of China (RCSC) trained a total of 9.605 million people in first aid, half of whom worked in the sector of public security, construction, mining, railway, health, civil aviation, tourism, power and transportation.
The RCSC's aim for 2010 is to train up one person in first-aid for every 15 to 300 residents of big cities and two to three people in every Red Cross branch at township and community levels.
According to the RCSC, disasters in 2006 have so far killed 1,699 people in China and left another 415 missing.
A total of 300 million people have been affected by a dramatic series of natural disasters this year, with losses totaling more than 130 billion yuan (US$16.25 billion).
(Xinhua News Agency September 19, 2006)