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Extreme Weather Death Toll Down over Past Years

National disasters caused by extreme weather are up, but human casualties are down.

A senior official said yesterday the death toll this year had declined because the country had boosted its disaster response capabilities.

"We've seen more disasters such as draughts, earthquakes and typhoons caused by extreme weathers this year," Wang Zhenyao, director of the general disaster and social relief department of Ministry of Civil Affairs, told China Daily yesterday.

"However, injuries and deaths are less than last year. It is also the first time that casualty numbers caused by typhoons hit the lowest point."

As Typhoon Krosa barreled toward eastern China over the weekend, every level of the government mobilized into action, evacuating 1.5 million people from the two coastal provinces - Fujian and Zhejiang - in the direct path of Krosa.

There were no official reports of deaths.

By the end of September, natural disasters caused financial losses of 161.2 billion yuan (US$21 billion) affected 373 million people and killed 1,762, according to the ministry.

The mitigation of losses during natural disasters is a result of increasing preparedness, including contingency plans and improved housing conditions, Wang said at an event in Beijing to mark International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction.

On Tuesday, Li Liguo, vice minister of civil affairs, said China had established improved disaster contingency plans for all weather.

The system is a part of the 11th Five-Year (2006-10) National Comprehensive Disaster Relief Plan, which was released in August.

The plan outlines disaster relief measures, including post-disaster mop-up plans and campaigns to raise public awareness of what to do during an emergency.

The plan sets a goal of containing domestic disaster losses of 1.5 percent of annual GDP every year by 2010 and reducing the number of casualties significantly than those recorded in 2001 and 2005.

This year the theme of the International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction is "Towards a Culture of Prevention: Disaster Risk Reduction Begins at School."

"Children are one of the groups most vulnerable to disasters," Wang said at a primary school where books on disaster prevention and risk reduction were sent to students.

"It is a key point of our work to educate children about the awareness of disaster prevention and reduction."

For both children and adults, lack of regular drills among the public was considered a weak point in reducing the risk of disasters, he said.

Surveys show that less than one in every thousand people had done such drills, he said, calling for action from the government and the public.

(China Daily October 11, 2007)

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