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. Bangladesh steps up earthquake response plans

by Staff Writers
Dhaka (AFP) June 24, 2008
The earthquake that devastated China's Sichuan province last month has prompted Bangladeshi authorities to step up contingency plans in the quake-prone South Asian nation, an official said Tuesday.

Fire Service and Civil Defence director major Motihur Rahman told AFP that 62,000 volunteers would be trained to deal with quakes and other natural disasters.

"We've seen the damage caused by the massive earthquakes in neighbouring China, Pakistan and Indonesia," he said.

"We're taking precautionary steps to lessen the loss of life and reduce the damage in the event of an earthquake. We live in an earthquake zone and the country is at risk."

Rahman said the most vulnerable parts of the country had been identified and training programmes would begin so that civilians could help with earthquake rescue missions.

"The Fire Service and Civil Defence don't have the manpower to handle a big disaster like what happened in China. We are going to make sure there is expertise at a community level," he said.

"They will also be able to help in other big disasters like cyclones, floods and tsunamis."

The three-year project is part of Bangladesh's wider comprehensive disaster management programme, managed and funded by the European Commission, Britain's Department for International Development and the United Nations Development Programme.

The European Commission's ambassador to Bangladesh, Stefan Frowein, said the programme had been in the planning for a few years, and last month's quake in China was a timely reminder about the importance of being prepared.

"Bangladesh is one of the most prepared countries when it comes to disasters," he said.

But Bangladesh needed to take precautions since construction was not particularly sturdy, Frowein said.

"We want to make the fire service more alert, more able to respond. We are equipping them in a modern way. We're giving them classic equipment which they don't have," he said.

Bangladesh sits on active tectonic plates and is frequently jolted by tremors. The last major earthquake struck in 1896.

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43 officials punished over quake relief: state media
Beijing (AFP) June 23, 2008
China has received more than 1,000 complaints about official misconduct in handling earthquake relief and has punished 43 officials, state-run Xinhua news agency said on Monday.

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