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China keen to show India its rescue act

For two days after the 8.8 magnitude earthquake struck Chile, a 60-member team in Beijing was on stand-by to fly on a rescue mission in case Chile called for help, reports Reshma Patil.

world Updated: Mar 05, 2010 02:12 IST
Reshma Patil

For two days after the 8.8 magnitude earthquake struck Chile, a 60-member team in Beijing was on stand-by to fly on a rescue mission in case Chile called for help.

China’s International Search and Rescue Team is also interested in collaborating with India, as Beijing steadily expands Chinese influence in international peacekeeping and disaster relief.

Last week, the media watched as ambulance sirens blared and sniffer dogs and Chinese rescuers who were back from Haiti scrambled over collapsed buildings, a smashed red car and a toppled electric pole. We were somewhere on the mountainous expanse outside Beijing, watching a mock rescue staged outside a glass-and-steel complex off the highway to the Great Wall.

As personnel in orange overalls slipped into a leaning building, an official told the Hindustan Times that the structures were demolished the way they would collapse during a real earthquake.

“Look under the rubble,’’ pointed Huang Jianfa, Director of Earthquake Disaster and Emergency Management. Beneath seemingly ordinary debris, the teams practise challenging rescues by crawling into underground tunnels equipped with cameras and sensors.

Huang, who spent two weeks on a Haiti mission in January, repeatedly told HT that China is interested in bringing Indians to train at this 10-year-old facility. “We’re willing to cooperate with India. These facilities can be used to train more people,’’ he said, waving a hand over the site.

The Chinese team spent its longest overseas stint in Haiti, retrieving 25 bodies and dispensing medical aid to 2,500 earthquake victims.

On a leaning building, a standard red code marked the wall — V for victim and L-1 for one life, inside a red circle with an arrow pointing to the top floor.

The rescuers slithered out of the windows with dolls strapped on their backs.

A dummy victim on a stretcher was lowered down a ladder. Nono the sniffer dog back from Haiti posed for photographs.

Spurred by the 8.0 magnitude earthquake that destroyed swathes of China’s southwest Sichuan province in May 2008, China plans to nearly double the staff at this 222-member centre and invest 100 million yuan this year.

As HT boarded the bus to Beijing, the director followed with his business card. “We’re willing to cooperate,’’ Huang repeated. “Please pass on the message to India.”