2008 Sichuan Earthquake and Role of the Chinese Defence Forces in Disaster Relief

Commander Kamlesh Kumar Agnihotri is a Research Fellow with the China Cell of the National Maritime Foundation, New Delhi.
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  • January 2012

    The People’s Republic of China has been afflicted by natural calamities right from its inception in 1949, including severe river flooding, excess snowfall, cyclones, tsunamis and earthquakes. The consequential human suffering is further aggravated by the heavy population density. The mammoth 2008 earthquake in Sichuan province and the resultant loss of life and property exposed the ill-preparedness of the Chinese government machinery like never before. Nevertheless, the Chinese State Council rose admirably to the occasion. The Peoples’ Liberation Army (PLA) composed of military, armed police, militia and reserve troops was the single largest contributor to the emergency rescue, response and subsequent mitigation efforts. In the process, it encountered many obstacles, faced severe shortcomings, learnt valuable lessons and initiated measures to incorporate these lessons for better disaster preparedness in future. The PLA internalised disaster relief as one of its major tasks under the “military operations other than war” role. The situation in India—large population density and frequent occurrence of natural disasters—is similar to that of China. Thus, there are valuable lessons to be learnt from the Chinese experience of having suffered this earthquake and the methodology adopted, particularly by their armed forces, in disaster response, mitigation and capacity building for better management of mega disasters in future

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