Beijing responds fast to landslide

By Michael Bristow
BBC News, Beijing

Image caption,
Thousands of Chinese troops have been sent to the area to aid relief work

China's government appears to have responded quickly after landslides and flooding devastated the isolated county of Zhouqu.

Rescuers were immediately despatched to the mountainous region; the first soldiers arrived just a few hours after disaster struck.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao also flew from Beijing to Gansu Province as soon as the scale of the situation became clear.

He usually turns up in times of disaster or difficulty, having built his reputation on showing ordinary people he cares.

With heavy rain and floods every year in China, both central and local governments have emergency response plans in place.

Troops prepared

Just a few weeks ago China's military - the People's Liberation Army - gave journalists a glimpse of its readiness.

We were driven to a base just outside the capital to see a regiment of engineers who had been training for emergencies like the one in Gansu.

They showed off their equipment both large and small: communications vehicles, mobile kitchens and cutting devices.

Soldiers also gave a demonstration of their training, simulating a rescue of civilians trapped under fallen buildings.

Central and local authorities have now sent thousands of tents, quilts and folding beds to the disaster area. They have also delivered flour, mineral water and candles.

On Wednesday, one official declared enough had already been pledged.

But one of the main problems facing the government is getting all those relief materials to where they are needed.

The affected area is mountainous and has few roads, some of which were blocked by landslides.

The ministry of finance has already said it will set aside 500m yuan ($74m, £47m) to fund the relief effort.

Officials have also come out with a three-stage plan: to get survivors into temporary shelters, then place them with friends and relatives and, finally, to rebuild their homes and their lives.

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