China Tackles Disasters with New Emergency Response System
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In 2005, China was plagued by all manner of natural disasters, from floods, typhoons, and earthquakes to droughts, blizzards, and landslides. The death toll from these events reached 2,475 and direct economic losses totaled 204.2 billion yuan (US $25.3 billion), the highest level in five years, Reuters reported on January 5.
To better cope with such catastrophes, in 2004 the Chinese government established a natural disaster emergency response system, which is now up and running, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs. By the end of 2004, 31 provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities had mapped out provincial-level emergency response plans. In 2005, the State Council set up a general emergency response plan, which includes 25 sub-plans for specific emergencies and 80 ministerial sub-plans.
China's disaster information network has improved as well, with the creation of a synergistic response mechanism between the central and local governments. A new information highway for disaster scenario simulation aims to ensure the timely delivery of information from the bottom up. And a state relief supply system consisting of 10 central and 31 provincial reserve centers has been set up to ensure that disaster relief supplies reach affected regions on time.
Thanks in part to these efforts, China's 2005 human toll from disasters was lower than that of 2001, which surpassed 2,500 deaths. An estimated 15.7 million people were evacuated in disaster response efforts in 2005, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.
China is regularly haunted by natural disasters. In 2005 alone, 8 typhoons made landfall in China and there were 13 earthquakes measuring 5.0 or higher on the Richter scale. Worldwide, more people are becoming vulnerable to natural disasters as they move to coastlines or concentrate in dense urban areas with poor building standards. In 2005 alone, more than 100,000 people were killed in such events, causing an unprecedented $200 billion in damage, according to Worldwatch Institute researcher Zoe Chafe. This past year also marked the most active Atlantic hurricane season since records began in 1851, leading scientists to study possible linkages between these storms and wider global warming trends.