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Italian experts recall experiences in China's quake-hit areas
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16:35, May 08, 2009

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"The Chinese government's relief measures and rescue operations were rapid and well-coordinated" after the devastating earthquake struck Wenchuan in southwestern Sichuan province on May 12 last year, Luigi D'Angelo says in a recent interview with Xinhua.

"The most impressive aspect I remember is the dignity and resilience of the Chinese people," said D'Angelo, an Italian who joined other international rescuers in helping China in its relief efforts after the earthquake.

During his three-week stay in China, D'Angelo was a team leader in the European relief task-force sent to Sichuan after the disaster. "The local population (in Wenchuan) affected by the quake showed moral strength and a big desire to return to normality," he recalled.

Next Tuesday will be the one-year anniversary of the calamity that left 87,000 people dead or missing and millions homeless. Shortly after the quake, D'Angelo led his team of four members sent by the European Commission to offer help to local quake victims.

Based at Chengdu's airport, the European team cooperated with local authorities in distributing food, first aid medical supplies and tents worth one million euros (1.33 million U.S. dollars), D'Angelo said.

"The Chinese government displayed excellent organization and took efficient actions in rescue operations after the Sichuan earthquake," said D'Angelo, who is now an officer of the Italian Civil Protection, a rescue and calamity emergency unit directly under the Italian government.

The Italian Civil Protection, headed by Guido Bertolaso, provided relief to the homeless after a strong earthquake that hit Italy's region of Abruzzo on April 6. D'Angelo belonged to the first unit of rescuers who searched for victims in L'Aquila.

The Italian Civil Protection was also involved in setting up a medical unit in China providing first aid treatment in Mianzhu, Sichuan. The unit was composed of 20 Italian volunteers including doctors and nurses. When they left, local people donated a commemorative plate expressing appreciations for their help.

For D'Angelo, the Sichuan earthquake gave a touching example of great human effort.

"The local rescue teams had everything under total control," he said. "The disaster had an enormous scale and in my tours around the area I saw crumbled buildings and destroyed homes."

"The Chinese government showed great dignity in dealing with the first phase of the quake aftermath, primarily the search and recovery of victims," D'Angelo recalled.

"I greatly admired the strategy and quick response of the Chinese government. First aid measures were immediately implemented and no survivor was left alone," D'Angelo added.

"I conducted coordination with local authorities and the Italian embassy in the distribution of goods and medical materials. There was great efficiency in directing the supplies to the areas in need, nothing went missing or unused."

D'Angelo was impressed by the enormous number of Chinese rescuers and the extraordinary work they did, together with the military units.

"Chengdu (capital city of Sichuan) was our operational base," he explained. "I was impressed by those people who came to look for help. Most of them had lost everything in the earthquake, their homes, families and friends. Despite their sufferings, they were patient and optimistic. They wanted to establish a human contact with us."

"The people's sense of resilience was incredible, they had the determination to start all over again and return to every-day life," he said.

The Italian advanced medical unit was directed by Paolo Vaccari, another officer of the Civil Protection. The unit examined the patients who would then be transported to the nearest hospital if their conditions were serious.

"In Chengdu we distributed some 240 tents, most of which were used as school classrooms for the children," said Vaccari. "After a week from the terrible calamity, pupils and their parents were able to return to almost ordinary life."

Besides the injured, the Italian doctors also took care of those who suffered severe psychological traumas.

"What impressed me most was the dimension of the disaster and the logistic machine put in place by the authorities," he said. "Extraordinary team-work was carried out by civilians, soldiers and volunteers."

"Despite the level of devastation, the people remained calm and serene," Vaccari told Xinhua.


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