China's Red Cross blasted after sending quilts to sweltering typhoon disaster zone
Aid director says there is nothing peculiar about sending cotton quilts to victims in tropical areas devastated by Super Typhoon Rammasun
Sending quilts to people affected by natural disasters is a routine practice even in summer, the scandal-plagued Red Cross Society of China said yesterday in response to widespread criticism over the charity's choice of assistance to victims of China's most severe typhoon in four decades.
Yang Xusheng, director of the organisation's aid department, told The Beijing News that it had sent thousands of cotton quilts to Guangdong, Hainan and Guangxi since Super Typhoon Rammasun made landfall on Friday. As of 5pm yesterday, 38 people were confirmed dead, and 31 were missing in Hainan, Guangdong, Guangxi and now Yunnan, battered by heavy rainfall from the typhoon.
In an online poll of 5,400 internet users by sohu.com only 12 per cent said it was reasonable to dispatch quilts because they have multiple uses.
Sixty per cent said they did not understand the need to "send warm bedding during extremely hot days", while others said the public now had a habit of questioning anything the Red Cross does following a slew of scandals.
Officials in the worst-hit areas of southern Guangdong said victims were in dire need of water, sleeping mats and towels. They did not think they would use the quilts now, Xinhua reported .
Yang said the quilts were sent in response to a request for such items made by officials at local Red Cross centres.
"In fact, it's a tradition in our country to provide quilts to people affected by disasters," Yang told The News. "It looks odd to send quilts to people in summer, but it's a regular practice in our disaster relief."
He said people whose homes were destroyed and could not shelter in tents could use the quilts as mattresses. Quilts were also better than mats - which were hard and had only one function - as they had various uses.
Temperatures can vary greatly between day and night even in those areas, especially away from the coast or in the hills. Chen Rui, who heads the aid team in Sanya, Hainan, said it was 28 degrees during the day, but dropped to 18 degrees at night. "Without jackets or quilts, people cannot stay outside," he said. Some 5,000 jackets were also sent to Hainan to help those in poor health, such as the elderly, women and children.
Donations to the Red Cross have shrunk in recent years, as the charity's image has been tarnished by a string of scandals. Three years ago, a young woman known as Guo Meimei posted photos of herself online driving sports cars and wearing designer fashion. She claimed to be the "commercial general manager" for the "China Red Cross Chamber of Commerce", neither of which exist.