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Disaster Relief Plan Unveiled
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Victims of China's increasingly frequent natural disasters will be guaranteed medical aid and relief supplies within 24 hours under a new government plan released on Tuesday.


The 11th Five-year Plan (2006-2010) for disaster relief outlines a wide range of measures to improve the natural disaster response system to cope with the "more frequent" calamities caused by global warming.


"We must guarantee that all people who are affected by disasters have access to enough food, drinking water, clothes, shelter and medical aid within 24 hours," it proclaims.


"A variety of natural disasters have affected 300 million people, destroyed three million homes, and cost 20 million yuan in direct economic losses every year to China over the past 15 years."


"As global warming increases, the frequency and intensity of natural disasters will also increase," said a senior official with the National Disaster Reduction Commission.


"Natural disasters have significantly restrained China's economic and social development," he said.


Under the plan, the government will establish a coordination platform to share information on natural disasters. National surveillance, early-warning, emergency response systems will be established and improved.


The plan also sets a target for economic loss control: "Direct economic losses caused by natural disasters should be contained at less than 1.5 percent of the country's annual GDP."


The document said that global warming is provoking more frequent typhoons, floods, rock-mud flows, droughts, and heat waves. Desertification, forest fires, plant diseases and algae blooms would be more common in the future.


More than 70 of China's cities and more than half the population are located in areas susceptible to natural disasters.


The government will establish central and local disaster relief material reserves networks and improve the standards for disaster relief facilities. They will offer additional training to the disaster relief personnel from the armed forces, fire brigades and civil affair departments.


Non-governmental disaster relief forces, such as the Red Cross Society, would be fully mobilized for natural disaster prevention, donations, medical aid, epidemic quarantine and psychiatric counseling.


Campaigns would also be run to raise public awareness of natural disaster prevention and safety via TV and radio programs, advertising, free booklets and audio-video products.


The official from the National Disaster Reduction Commission said that the government aimed to set up an Asian regional research center to simulate disasters and responses, and consequently formulate strategies and policies.


It would also establish specific disaster prevention and response plans for the nation's more populous and prosperous regions, such as the Yangtze River Delta, the Pearl River Delta and the Bohai Sea, the official said.


Approximately 1,279 Chinese have died and 239 have disappeared due to natural disasters during the first seven months of 2007. More than 1,600 Chinese have died as a result of natural disasters in 2006.


(Xinhua News Agency August 15, 2007)

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