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Quake tests Chinese military's combat capability in peace time
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19:01, June 10, 2008

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· 8.0 Richter scale earthquake hits SW China
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After 10 days of search, remains of the missing Chinese helicopter and those aboard were found on a mountain near the epicenter Yingxiu Town on Tuesday.

The debris of the Mi-171 helicopter was found in the bushes northwest of Yingxiu at 10:55 a.m. Tuesday. On May 26, five days' before the crash, Senior Colonel Qiu Guanghua, the helicopter pilot, described that the aftermath of the quake resembled a war in an interview with China National Radio.

"I have joined in several disaster relief operations, but this time so many people died or were injured," the 51-year-old said. "All Chinese people are mobilized to support the quake-hit regions and some even sacrificed their lives."

"The aftermath of the earthquake looks like a war and it is a test for the Chinese armed forces."

After 29 years of peace in the country, the Chinese armed forces are now engaging in a war against the devastating earthquake.

From devastating floods in the Yangtze and Songhuajiang rivers in 1998 to heavy snowstorms in south China at the beginning of this year, the Chinese military had always acted as the main force for disaster rescue and relief. In the meantime, disasters had tested the Chinese forces' combat capability during the time of peace.

On May 12, 13 minutes after the 8.0-magnitude quake struck the southwestern Sichuan Province and neighboring regions, Chinese armed forces started their emergency response system. The first Chinese military rescue team headed for the disaster area within 14 minutes. In less than 10 hours after the quake, 12,000 armed forces and armed police arrived at the quake-battered areas for rescue.

About 130,000 soldiers of the Chinese army, navy and air force were currently working in the quake-hit regions in rescue and relief. Soldiers trained in over 20 specialties, including quake rescue, scouting and engineering, among others, were sent to the quake-hit regions.

Such measures are unprecedented in Chinese military history in disaster rescue and relief, military sources said.

As of May 28, the armed forces had excavated over 3,336 survivors from the debris and evacuated over 660,000 stranded people.

In nearly one month of rescue and relief operations, the military had helped the local people to set up battlefield hospitals, schools in tents and provide psychological consultation to quake survivors.

The well-coordinated, long-range operation during the disaster rescue and relief showcased the military's strong combat capacity, military experts said.

Commentator He Liangliang of Phoenix TV deemed the rescue efforts in mountainous areas by the People's Liberation Army (PLA) as more difficult than any other military exercise.

China has not engaged in war with other countries for many years and this calamity acted as a real test for PLA's combat capability in peace time, He said.

"The PLA's rapid operation in emergency has proved it is a mighty armed forces to safeguard peace," he said.

Chen Hu, "World Military Affairs Magazine" editor in chief, noted the important role played by modern military technology during this disaster rescue and relief.

Besides the frequent flights by modern transporters and helicopters, 15 satellites continued to collect data of quake-hit regions and this was very important to organizing the rescue operation, he said.

Before the quake, there were no large scale adoption of modern technology in the country's disaster rescue. "This time, the extensive usage of satellite technology greatly enhanced the PLA's combat capability," Chen said.

He admitted there was still a distance between the Chinese armed forces and their counterparts in developed countries in terms of military modernization.

Chen expressed his hope the Chinese armed forces could speed up their modernization process and further improve their diversified capability, including combating disaster relief in the future.


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