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China Looks to Enhance Disaster Reduction Cooperation with Norway

China will enhance communication and cooperation with Norway on natural disaster reduction, a top official said in Beijing on Wednesday.

"The two countries will strengthen cooperation in the fields of disaster reduction and relief work by sharing disaster information and their respective experiences in fighting natural disasters," said Li Liguo, Civil Affairs vice minister.

He made the remark during a workshop on disaster reduction held by China's State Disaster Relief Commission and the Norwegian Foreign Ministry.

"Natural disasters cost China at least 1,000 lives and direct economic loss of more than 100 billion yuan every year. They have become an important factor restraining economic and social development in China."

Li cited the Sumatra earthquake and the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, the Kashmir earthquake in 2005 and the recent prolonged snow storms, low temperatures and icy rain that have affected China since mid-January, all of which "cause enormous loss of human lives and economic costs".

"China suffers from a variety of natural disasters including flood, draught, typhoon, earthquakes and snow storms," Li said. "Every year, the central government allocates billions of yuan for disaster relief to provide clothing, food, housing and medication for those affected."

"The country has also set up an effective disaster alarm and emergency response system to cope with natural disasters, and will guarantee the basic livelihood of those affected and post-disaster rebuilding," he said.

China set its 11th five-year plan (2006-2010) for disaster relief in August to improve the natural disaster response system to cope with the "more frequent calamities caused by global warming".

According to the plan, a variety of natural disasters have affected 300 million people, destroyed 3 million homes and caused 200 billion yuan of direct economic loss annually to China over the past 15 years.

Under the plan, the government would establish a coordination platform to share information on natural disasters, and national surveillance, early-warning, emergency response systems will be established and improved.

The plan also set a target for economic loss control: "Direct economic losses caused by natural disasters should be contained at less than 1.5 percent of the country's annual GDP."

The recent unprecedented winter storms, which hit 21 provincial-level regions in the central and southern parts of China starting in mid-January, have claimed 129 lives and caused 151.65 billion yuan (US$21.11 billion) in economic loss by February 23. A total of 485,000 houses have been devastated, with an estimated 1.66 million people losing their homes and living in temporary shelters.

(Xinhua News Agency March 13, 2008)

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