ZHOU WA in Beijing and XUE CHAOHUA in Lanzhou
Officials and experts have called for intensified cooperation on disaster prevention and rescue between China and Indonesia, to help both countries better cope with natural calamities.
The nations should enhance information and technical exchanges on geological disaster relief, said Yin Guanghui, deputy director of the China Earthquake Administration's earthquake emergency and rescue department.
A medic with a Chinese rescue team shows a middle school student how to wash her hands properly during post-quake work in Bantul, Indonesia, in 2006. [QIU HONGJIE / XINHUA]
"China and Indonesia have set up a cooperation framework for natural disaster relief, but there is still potential for more," he said.
Yin, who is also the leader of the China International Search and Rescue Team, called for more joint training programs and exercises.
Improved communication between rescue and medical workers from the two countries will also improve efficiency, added Peng Bibo, deputy leader of the search team's medical squad and deputy director of the General Hospital of Armed Police Forces' medical department in Beijing.
Sitting on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a vast zone of seismic and volcanic movements that stretches from Chile to Japan and Indonesia, China and Indonesia have been hit by many geological disasters.
However, these challenges have brought the nations closer.
When an earthquake or tsunami happens in one country, the government of the other often sends rescue teams.
"China's rescue team was the first international rescue team to arrive in Aceh in Indonesia when an earthquake occurred in 2004. It saved and treated more than 10,000 people in 13 days," President Xi Jinping said in a speech to Indonesian lawmakers on Thursday.
On Dec 26, 2004, a magnitude-8.7 earthquake hit Indonesia, leaving about 170,000 people dead or missing. China sent two groups of about 80 rescue workers to help.
Peng and another 34 search and rescue team members were among the first to arrive, while Yin offered guidance and support from afar.
To show the gratitude of the Indonesian people, former vice-president Jusuf Kalla greeted the Chinese team at the rescue command center on their arrival.
"We landed in Indonesia on Dec 31, 2004," Peng recalled. "Just outside the airport were crowds of victims, some with festering wounds. Medics began treating patients immediately.
"In Indonesia, they worked about 15 to 16 hours a day."
Medics in quake zones need to be all-rounders: Masters in first-aid techniques, skilled in diagnosing and treating respiratory problems and psychological disorders, and able to operate equipment such as electric saws and drills.
As well as sending rescue teams to Indonesia, China also helped the country build earthquake monitoring stations, Yin said.
In 2006, another earthquake in Indonesia killed about 6,000 people. Again, China immediately sent a rescue team and offered $2 million in aid.
China's help to Indonesia won the country's support in turn.
When an unprecedented magnitude-8.0 earthquake hit Sichuan province's Wenchuan county on May 12, 2008, the Indonesian government sent 20 rescue workers.
Despite the poor transportation conditions, the team went to severely affected villages in Wenxian, Gansu province, performing more than 10 operations on the wounded and offering outpatient service to more than 200 survivors.
The team also donated daily necessities to people who had lost their homes, villagers said.
The team left on June 5, only after all the injured were in recovery.
"A friend in need is a friend indeed," Yin said. "Chinese and Indonesian people have built deep friendships in the process of natural disaster relief, creating a solid foundation for bilateral cooperation."
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