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July 29, 2010

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City ready to combat flooding

SHANGHAI has completed construction of a 523-kilometer flood-control dike able to combat severe flooding, local officials told a disaster risk reduction forum in Shanghai yesterday, the 34th anniversary of the Tangshan Earthquake.

The 7.8-magnitude earthquake which hit Hebei Province's Tangshan City in July 28, 1976, killed more than 242,000 people.

The forum organizer, the DEVNET Pavilion at the World Expo, teamed up United Nations' agencies and local governments to gather experts home and abroad to discuss how to improve cities' ability to cope with disasters of such magnitude.

Officials said disasters due to climate change were the top threat to urban safety and every city must do risk assessment and build systems to prepare for and combat potential disasters.

Teng Wuxiao, a member of Shanghai Disaster Defense Association's expert commission, said Shanghai was at risk of serious flooding every three years and tropical storms every five years on average.

"Extreme weather like sudden rain storms and high temperatures will become more frequent in the city, which is improving its drainage network and a public extreme weather warning system for early and proper preparation and defense," he said. "The new dike is able to protect Shanghai against rising sea levels and marine disasters."

A community-based education and training campaign to improve the public's knowledge on disaster response has kicked off in the city, he added.

About 70 percent of Chinese cities are built in areas facing geologic, earthquake, flooding and marine disasters, so it is urgent to include disaster reduction in city planning and enhance disaster response capabilities, officials from the Ministry of Civil Affairs said.

"The high population density, the high interactive infrastructure facilities and high gathering of wealth in urban require an effective disaster defense ability, which is still not strong enough for many Chinese cities," said Zhang Weixing, deputy director of the ministry's emergency relief department.

"We now face problems like the lack of disaster shelters, cities' poor disaster defense ability and residents' poor awareness."


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