Fri, Dec 31, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Team ready for relief mission

HELPING HAND Taiwan has expertise in environmental clean-up tasks and water resource management, and has offered these skills to nations hard-hit by tsunamis

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER, WITH CNA

Taiwan's eleven-member disaster relief medical team boards a China Airlines flight yesterday morning bound for Medan, Indonesia, where they will transfer to the areas devastated by Sunday's tsunami.

PHOTO: TONY YAO, TAIPEI TIMES

Taiwan will use its knowledge and experience to assist areas hit by Sunday's tsunamis, officials with the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) said yesterday.

International disaster-relief organizations predict that the death toll could top 100,000 in the coming days. The UN has warned that water-borne diseases will likely be the next big threat to the survivors. EPA minister Chang Juu-en (張祖恩) told the Taipei Times that in many areas devastated by the tsunamis, rotting bodies still lay about, and fear was growing that corpses could contribute to the spread of disease. Chang also said capable countries such as Taiwan should assist in any way they can.

Chang said the nation's experience in carrying out environmental disinfection and water resource management would be useful in fighting against disease and thirst.

"Taiwan is one of those countries which is capable of contributing advanced technologies to help clean up the environment. We have just established a team which can be dispatched any time," Chang said.

In recent years, the EPA mastered its environmental clean-up abilities in order to prevent the spread of disease or viruses, such as SARS and dengue fever. "Taiwanese experts can even go to disaster areas to help train local people in environmental disinfection tasks," Chang said. However, Chang said that the EPA is still waiting for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' evaluation, which will designate target areas for Taiwan to carry out environmental disinfection tasks. Chang also said the governments of those nations hit hardest by the tsunamis are welcome to contact Taiwan and request assistance.

"Taiwan would like to offer its water purification skills, which are definitely crucial to the affected people," Chang said.

According to Chang Hoang-jang (張晃彰), director of the EPA's Chief Inspectorate, 150 staffers specializing in environmental disinfection and the construction of drinking water purification infrastructure are all ready to be dispatched.

"In addition to carrying out environmental disinfection, we will offer the resources necessary to turn polluted water into water that is drinkable -- especially in remote areas," Chang Hoang-jang said.

Meanwhile, the minister of the national science council, Wu Maw-kuen (吳茂昆), told a press conference yesterday that the nation's geological surveys and seismology research would be revised in the near future to take tsunami disaster prevention into account.

"The devastating effect tsunamis can have are almost unfathomable," Wu said. "Taiwan has to strengthen relations with neighboring countries in the area of scientific research in order to establish tsunami warning systems and to jointly ensure the safety of the region," Wu added.

In related news, an 11-member medical team organized by the Department of Health headed for Medan, Indonesia yesterday to offer post-disaster medical aid to areas devastated by the killer tsunamis.

Minister of Health Chen Chien-jen (程建仁) went to the Chiang Kai-shek International Airport to support those preparing to face the grim realities of dealing the deaths of thousands. Chen thanked the volunteers for their selflessness.

It was the first national-level medical aid team from Taiwan to lend a hand since a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunamis tore through a dozen countries around the Bay of Bengal on Sunday.

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