Wed, Jul 26, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Planes serving Itu Aba are fitted with life-saving devices

By Lee Li-fa, Lo Tien-pin and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

The air force on Monday fitted Lockheed C-130 cargo planes with intensive-care devices in a bid to enhance the Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島) garrison’s capabilities in responding to maritime disasters.

The air force and coast guard on Monday conducted a mock medical evacuation from Itu Aba to Pingtung Air Force Base using a medical-device-equipped C-130. However, bad weather prevented the aircraft from landing and it circled above Itu Aba for more than 20 minutes before being recalled, the coast guard said.

Coast Guard Administration official Wang Mao-lin (王茂霖) said weather conditions have a huge effect on medical operations from Itu Aba, which is why it is necessary for aircraft to have onboard life-sustaining equipment.

Part of the disputed Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島), Itu Aba is 1,600km from Taiwan proper. The coast guard has handled 74 rescue operations with 104 injured people in the South China Sea since 2000, Wang said.

While most of the people treated for injuries were Taiwanese fishermen, some foreign merchant crews have also needed medical aid, he said.

The garrison is comprised of more than 100 coast guard officials, including three medical officers, and the Ministry of Health and Welfare has built optic fiber cables and mobile networks to enable outside medical consultation for diagnosis and procedures, he said.

In the case of a major medical emergency, the island relies on C-130 cargo planes to evacuate people to hospitals in Taiwan proper. The addition of life-sustaining devices on the planes would improve the survival rates of those in critical condition during the three-and-a-half-hour flight, the coast guard said.

The modified C-130 planes are part of a government initiative to expand the role of the island’s coast guard garrison to include rendering humanitarian aid for maritime incidents in South China Sea, the coast guard said.

It is hoped that Itu Aba would become a medical response center for the South China Sea and a platform through which the nation could improve its ties with other nations that have claims or partial claims in the region, it said.

Although weather conditions prevented the completion of the mock air evacuation, the exercise has showed that the coordination of the coast guard and the air force are adequate, and the medical devices on the C-130 functioned as intended, the coast guard said.

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