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Govt Braces for Stormy Weather

Meteorologists are working on a nationwide plan to combat the impact of extreme weather conditions that threaten both the economy and society as a whole.

Zheng Guoguang, director of the China Meteorological Administration (CMA), said the plan, which runs until 2020, will focus on disaster warning, information release and emergency response, technological support, legislation and standard making, and public education.

"All our efforts are designed to make our weather forecasts more accurate," he said.

Zheng was speaking in Beijing yesterday at a conference on weather-related disaster relief and prevention.

Under the draft plan, eight key projects will be developed to improve the way in which weather disasters are handled.

These include the establishment of new weather radar network, completion of the Fengyun weather satellite system, the development of a weather observation and disaster pre-warning project, and the optimization of the climate change observation network and related services.

Zheng urged local meteorologists to develop plans based on all possible weather conditions.

For example, Zhejiang Province in East China has been frequently attacked by typhoons, which over the past 16 years have led to economic losses of more than 13 billion yuan (US$1.7 billion). Its provincial plan should therefore focus on typhoon response, Zheng said.

Likewise, Gansu Province in Northwest China should look to address problems regarding desertification and scarce water resources, he said.

"China's current disaster relief and prevention system does not meet the needs of the public or society," Zheng said.

For example, because of a lack of observation stations and effective measures on following short-lived severe convective weather, some small weather disasters have been missed, and rain forecasts are sometimes inaccurate, he said.

People in rural areas often do not receive timely weather information through the current channels and public knowledge of how to avoid and deal with weather disasters is insufficient, Zheng said.

The country must have a comprehensive disaster prevention and rescue system, with all related departments working together, he said.

In recent years, China has witnessed a growing number of extreme weather events, Zheng said.

In March, Northeast China and Inner Mongolia saw their heaviest snowfall since 1951, with the former subsequently suffering six months of drought. The Huaihe River witnessed its worst flooding since 1954, and between January and August, 659 people died in lightning storms, CMA figures showed.

(China Daily September 19, 2007)

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