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Focus on Disaster Prevention Sharpened

China is building up a national natural disaster evaluation mechanism to strengthen its prevention and reduction capacity in the aftermath of recent blizzards, a senior official said.

Wang Zhenyao, director of the disaster relief bureau of the Ministry of Civil Affairs, said governments at all levels were considering a shift of focus to disaster reduction and relief.

"To establish a disaster evaluation system is a big challenge. We are acting on it with better methods, and evaluation standards," he said.

The ice and snow storm brought long periods of bitter cold, heavy snow and sleet to 19 provinces, killing 129 people and wreaking 152 billion yuan in damage.

Lessons learned from the disaster have prompted the ministry to upgrade its current disaster reduction and prevention systems.

"Previously our focus was on the loss of people and housings, while ignoring the comprehensive picture across provinces."

"Now we have to be able to consider overall consequences if a disaster happens."

Pilot efforts evaluating the impact on local economies and civil society of recent earthquakes in southern China have already been made, he said.

Wang made his remarks at the two-day Sino-Norwegian Bilateral Seminar on Disaster Risk Reduction kicked off yesterday in Beijing, the first of its kind to address the growing threat of climate change.

Vice-Minister Li Liguo of the Ministry of Civil Affairs asked for more bilateral exchanges in advanced technology and expertise from both sides.

Oddvar Kjekstad, deputy-managing director of the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute, said the two countries could benefit from further collaboration in dealing with common challenges.

(China Daily March 13, 2008)

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