'More weather radars needed'

0 CommentsPrint E-mail China Daily, August 18, 2010
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A lack of effective disaster prevention and mitigation partially caused the huge casualties and economic losses in the recent devastating mudslides in Northwest China's Gansu, leading expert and officials have said.

"The Zhouqu mudslides show a fatal problem in our country's disaster prevention facilities, and that is our weak disaster prevention and reduction ability," Shi Peijun, deputy director of the expert committee of the National Disaster Reduction Committee told China Daily on Tuesday.

According to 2009 data, China has only about 150 sets of weather radars to monitor precipitation, meaning 10 counties have to share one set. In addition, the radars cannot detect strong regional downpours, let alone forecast or warn in advance, he added.

"If such a radar had been built in Zhouqu, it would have detected the fresh torrents about one hour before the rains hit and given the local authorities enough time to evacuate the people and avoid some casualties at least," Shi said.

The devastating mudslides in Zhouqu left at least 1,270 dead and 474 missing as of 5 pm on Tuesday, burying three villages surrounded by mountains.

From January to July, China witnessed at least 26,000 geological hazards, nearly four times the same period in 2009. Those hazards left 843 dead or missing, up 170 percent year on year, according to the latest statistics from the Ministry of Land and Resources (MLR).

Facing increasing extreme weather events, the government should improve the national comprehensive disaster prevention and forecast system to monitor the weather and geological elements across the country, Shi said.

Guan Fengjun, director of the department of geological environment with the ministry, admitted that the country's disaster prevention and mitigation system is weak, considering the huge land area and large population.

"The geological distribution of monitoring stations is uneven, and especially rare in remote areas. We are trying to detect more potential dangerous regions and set up more stations," Guan said.

But weather predictions are not that easy, taking climate and geological changes into account, he added.

Tao Qingfa, deputy director of the department, said besides the lack of monitoring stations and professional staff, people should also raise their awareness on how to avoid natural disasters, especially in schools and other public areas.

During the Wenchuan devastating earthquake, all the 2,200 students and 100 teachers in Sangzao Middle School in Anxian county near the epicenter evacuated to playground within one minute and 36 seconds and all of them were saved. Many attributed their saved lives to the school's continuous safety training.

After the increasing natural disasters in China, Shi Peijun suggested financial programs such as insurance would help a natural disaster prevention system to share the risks.

"We are evaluating the risky areas for natural disasters and for people who live in high-risk areas, the insurance will be compulsory," Shi said.

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