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Casualties in Accidents, Disasters Total 1 Million

Casualties in accidents and disasters in China total more than 1 million a year, said a senior official with the Ministry of Public Security (MPS).

Economic losses from accidents and disasters amount to 650 billion yuan (US$80.15 billion) a year, accounting for 6 percent of the country's GDP, said Wang Jikun, deputy director of the MPS General Office.

"China is one of the countries that suffer most from natural disasters in the world," Wang told a forum on building an emergency joint response system in Chinese cities Saturday in Nanning, capital of south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

"Meanwhile, huge hidden troubles exist in a great number of infrastructure facilities that were built after the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, due to lack of timely maintenance and replacement," he said, adding that the situation of frequent accidents may get worse along with rapid urbanization in China.

Wang said China has initially worked out an emergency response plan, but he acknowledged China's emergency joint response system in cities is yet to be perfected, therefore accidents and disasters often cause huge indirect losses, in addition to economic losses.

"For instance, during the water pollution incident in the Songhua River, the impact on the daily life of the public may even exceed the direct economic losses," he said.

Harbin, a riverside city of 3.8 million people in northeast China that depends on the Songhua for water, shut down its water supply system for four days starting from wee hours on Wednesday because of a highly polluted water stretch in the river following a blast at a petrochemical plant up the river on Nov. 13.

In 2004, China reported 5.61 million accidents of various kinds, leaving 210,000 dead and 1.75 million injured and causing more than 455 billion yuan (US$56.1 billion) of direct economic losses, statistics show.

(Xinhua News Agency November 27, 2005)

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