Yaan earthquake

PLA shows quick response to Lushan earthquake

A sense of unity prevails as PLA, relief agencies and volunteer groups work hand in hand to rush emergency assistance to stricken county

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 April, 2013, 1:59pm

In stark contrast to the Great Sichuan Earthquake five years ago, the central government and the army showed yesterday that they could respond quickly to natural disasters.

And volunteer groups said they were better equipped to help out.

Within hours of yesterday's quake in Lushan county, Sichuan province, relief personnel were mobilised and deployed to the scene with plentiful relief supplies. They comprised teams sent by the military, armed police and central government agencies including the National Earthquake Administration, the ministries of civil affairs and public security and government-backed charities.

The army was better prepared than in May 2008, when the PLA would not take orders from Premier Wen Jiabao's civilian government.

Xinhua reported that almost 7,500 People's Liberation Army soldiers and armed police had been sent to the disaster zone and more than 10,000 others placed on standby.

Air force commander General Ma Xiaotian arrived in Sichuan's Qionglai county to set up an air force headquarters for quake relief. The air force command scrambled two reconnaissance aircraft from Beijing in the morning to take aerial photographs of the quake-hit area, while five civilian drones were also sent up to survey the area.

Forty-five civilian flights were chartered to ferry relief supplies. A military vehicle carrying 17 soldiers en route to the quake zone plunged off a road, killing at least two soldiers, Xinhua said.

The Red Cross Society of China, which has strong backing from the central government, ordered its warehouse in the provincial capital, Chengdu , to rush two consignments of supplies, including 1,700 tents, to areas affected by the earthquake, which measured 7.0 on the Richter scale according to Chinese scientists and 6.6 according to the US Geological Survey.

Volunteer groups said the central and provincial governments had come a long way in emergency preparedness and response to natural disasters since the magnitude 8 quake centred on Wenchuan nearly five years ago.

The Chongqing Huayan Fund for Culture and Education was among the first civilian volunteer groups to mobilise relief efforts yesterday. Its secretary general, Zhang Honglin, said some 20 volunteers left Chongqing at lunchtime, but were still at least 100 kilometres away from Yaan, near the quake's epicentre, at 5pm.

Zhang said several roads leading to Yaan had been largely taken over by government and military vehicles.

Tang Yu from the Chengdu branch of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency in China said several groups of volunteers were en route to Yaan.

"Yesterday showed that it's best for the government to lead relief operations because they have the resources and the power of mobilisation if they can deliver these in an efficient way," Tang said. "NGOs like us can at best facilitate the government's efforts because we have limited manpower and resources."

Huang Qi, a dissident, was intercepted en route to Yaan and later sent home to Chengdu.