More precaution urged for ocean disasters in China

08:31, May 12, 2011      

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Chinese maritime officials and experts Wednesday called for more precaution regarding ocean disasters in the wake of Japan's recent quake-tsunami and the ensuing nuclear crisis.

The appeals were made on the eve of National Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Day on May 12, which is also the third anniversary of the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake that left some 87,000 people dead or missing in China's Sichuan Province.

Loopholes in China's ocean disaster control and prevention system, such as a lack of radiation testing labs, have emerged during Japan's nuclear crisis, said Dou Yueming, an official from the North Sea Branch of the State Oceanic Administration (SOA).

Dozens of Chinese research institutions and universities have radiation testing labs, but many of them have been abandoned because of disuse, according to Dou.

As a result, water samples from the Yellow Sea had to be delivered to the southeastern city of Xiamen for radiation tests. Xiamen is about 1,700 kilometers away from Qingdao, where the SOA's North Sea Branch is located.

A total of 63 water samples and 2,577 air samples were sent to Xiamen following the nuclear disaster in Japan. All of the samples showed safe levels of radiation.

"Radiation testing labs might not be needed for decades, but they are becoming more and more indispensable as more nuclear plants are built along the coastline," Dou said.

Several coastal provinces are planning to restore their radiation testing labs, but testing devices are in short supply, according to Dou.

The government should take action to mitigate the potential effects of unexpected disasters such as oil spills, said Cui Wenlin, director of the SOA's North Sea Monitoring Center.

Liu Hongbing, a professor at the Ocean University of China, believed that China should put an early-warning system into place to help deal with unexpected environmental disasters.


Although not as dramatic or dangerous as nuclear disasters, the buildup of sea ice near the eastern coastal provinces of Shandong and Liaoning has proved to be a thorn in the side of local governments there.

The region experienced its worst buildup of sea ice in three decades in 2009, when ice buildups halted shipping and resulted in economic losses of 4 billion yuan (616 million U.S. dollars).

Monitoring and forecasting devices should be upgraded to help the region deal with future sea ice buildups, said Guo Kecai, an expert at the SOA'S North Sea Forecasting Center.

Authorities should also publish disaster-related informative guides and organize evacuation drills to help the public deal with future disasters, experts said.

"If people had some basic knowledge about radiation, they would not have rushed to buy iodized salt in a panic after the nuclear leak in Japan," said Zhang Shufeng, a researcher at the Qingdao Academy of Social Sciences.

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