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Thursday, May 10, 2018, 14:39
Many lessons learnt from Wenchuan quake
By Yao Yuxin
Thursday, May 10, 2018, 14:39 By Yao Yuxin

Editor's note: This year marks the 10th anniversary of the 8.0-magnitude earthquake that devastated Wenchuan and other areas in Sichuan province on May 12, 2008. Among other things, the Wenchuan earthquake taught China to take more precautionary measures to deal with natural disasters. In fact, the country has made remarkable progress in this regard over the past decade. Three experts share their views with China Daily's Yao Yuxin on the earthquake and its aftermath. Excerpts follow:


Advance quake warning system can save lives

Early warning of an earthquake can save many lives and prevent many secondary disasters. The warning system taken by the Insitute of Care-Life has been coworking with other agencies across China, covering 2.2 million square kilometers, the largest expanse in the world, and covers schools, communities, nuclear power plants and chemical factories.

The EEWS has already become a part of the local residents' daily life for almost 10 years. With the help of local broadcasting agencies, it has issued earthquake warnings about 40 times, including that for the 7.0-magnitude Lushan earthquake in Sichuan province in 2013 that helped to significantly reduce the number of casualties. Local residents can use "Internet Plus" to download an app for earthquake warning on their mobile phones to get firsthand information and early warning against quakes.

Besides, as the third country - after Mexico and Japan - to establish an EEWS, China can use the experience to help the countries along the Belt and Road to issue early warning for quakes. Actually, an EEWS has been already installed in Nepal, which covers one-third of the country's territory and half of its population.

Wang Tun, director of the Institute of Care-Life in Chengdu, Sichuan province

Trauma victims in need of institutional guarantee

Residents suffering from post-earthquake trauma receive therapy under a treatment program established with policy, financial and technical support from the government, and some nonprofit organizations, local communities and individual psychiatrists. Some trauma patients could need such treatment for up to 20 years before they can fully reintegrate into society.

Mental health problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder caused by disasters have got increasing attention nationwide, especially after the Wenchuan earthquake. Immediate intervention could heal the invisible psychological injuries of the quake survivors and eliminate the possible social risks associated with such trauma.

Thanks to the growing number of professional psychiatrists, the country can now better deal with the rising demand for psychotherapy. In particular, the attitude of the people in the earthquake-affected region has helped the authorities, psychiatrists and medical practitioners to keep the ill effects of post-traumatic stress disorder in China at a much lower level than that in some developed countries.

However, there is a need to expedite the construction of a stronger system to provide psychotherapy and social support for trauma patients in hard-to-reach mountainous areas. Also, adequate funds should be made available to ensure continuous assistance for such people in the coming decade.

Therefore, social awareness about the importance of psychotherapy should be raised, so that more post-traumatic stress disorder patients seek treatment. In addition, institutional and financial guarantees are needed to continue the ongoing assistance program for trauma patients.

Wang Bin, an associate professor at the Law School of Southwest University of Science and Technology

Government should support civil groups in rescue work

Private assistant groups, which complement government rescue and relief agencies, are usually the first to arrive in earthquake-hit areas in Japan. In China, too, more and more non-governmental organizations are providing humanitarian relief for the people in disaster-hit areas. In fact, some Chinese civil groups can now offer more timely, flexible, professional and innovative rescue methods than they did in the past.

But management disorder in the first few hours of emergency relief, volunteers high on enthusiasm but low on organizational support can disrupt normal rescue work. Therefore, it is necessary to promote closer cooperation and coordination among different government departments and individuals, and other organizations to ensure smooth rescue and relief work.

Although individuals and nonprofit organizations in China are developing fast, the training and management of their volunteers and equipment are still not as professional as their counterparts in developed countries. Therefore, the government needs to provide such civil rescue forces with more policy and financial support to make them truly professional.

Deng Guosheng, a professor at the School of Public Policy and Management, Tsinghua University

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