Govts must help peo­ple weather the storms

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

The se­vere rain­storms that have bat­tered 13 provinces in cen­tral, south­ern and south­west­ern re­gions of China since June are not just a test of lo­cal gov­ern­ments’ gov­ern­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties, they are also a touch­stone for whether they put peo­ple’s well-be­ing be­fore any­thing else.

The rain is the heav­i­est ever recorded in many places. In South­west China, for ex­am­ple, Chongqing’s hy­dro­met­ric sta­tion is­sued a red alert, the high­est level of warn­ing, for the first time since it was es­tab­lished 80 years ago. Such was the scale of the flood­ing that in some streets only the heads of the street­lights could be seen above the sur­face of the wa­ter.

While the eco­nomic losses are ex­pected to be heavy, the Min­istry of Emer­gency Man­age­ment es­ti­mates they will be about 25.7 bil­lion yuan ($3.64 bil­lion). President Xi Jin­ping has stressed that lo­cal gov­ern­ments must give top pri­or­ity to guar­an­tee­ing peo­ple’s lives and safety.

At least 81 res­i­dents have been re­ported dead or miss­ing in the storm-hit ar­eas and more than 8,000 houses have col­lapsed and nearly 90,000 have been dam­aged. More than 729,000 res­i­dents have had to be evac­u­ated from their homes.

It is im­per­a­tive that lo­cal gov­ern­ments do what­ever they can to or­ga­nize all the re­sources at their dis­posal to evac­u­ate those whose lives are en­dan­gered by the storms and floods, res­cue those who are trapped at home or else­where, and make sure those who have been evac­u­ated have safe places to stay, clean wa­ter to drink and enough food to eat. Mon­i­tor­ing of the poor qual­ity houses in shanty towns must be in­ten­si­fied to make sure res­i­dents in dan­ger are timely evac­u­ated to safe places.

It is also im­por­tant to pool the wis­dom of re­lated ex­perts to iden­tify and as­sess po­ten­tial dan­gers in ad­vance so that res­i­dents can be evac­u­ated be­fore the storms pose a threat to their lives.

Small reser­voirs in re­mote and less-de­vel­oped ar­eas must be given enough at­ten­tion as they could col­lapse un­der the strain of the del­uge. In­spec­tions of these reser­voirs must be con­ducted and any vil­lagers deemed to be at risk must be evac­u­ated.

Prepa­ra­tions must also be made to avert or cope with other col­lat­eral dis­as­ters such as land­slides, mud­slides and cave-ins, which may also pose threats to lives and prop­er­ties.

Pre­pared­ness averts peril. More heavy rain­storms are ex­pected in the days to come. All the nec­es­sary prepa­ra­tions to pro­tect peo­ple should be done be­fore the heav­ens open again. This should be top on the agenda of all lo­cal gov­ern­ments. It is wise and re­spon­si­ble for them to err on the side of cau­tion when it comes to the pro­tec­tion of peo­ple’s lives and prop­erty.

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