China: Red Cross responds to worst typhoon in half a century

Staff and volunteers from the provincial Red Cross branches in Zhejiang and Fujian sprang into action on 10 August as Typhoon Saomai slammed into southeast coastal regions, forcing more than a million people to evacuate.

Saomai, the strongest typhoon to hit China's mainland in 50 years, destroyed an estimated 50,000 homes in the region and severely disrupted power supplies and communications.

Local Red Cross volunteers and staff responded immediately by distributing emergency relief supplies, including blankets, clothes, medicine, disinfectant and other basic necessities to people made homeless by the disaster.

"The storms were so violent they destroyed countless homes in a matter of minutes," said Alistair Henley, the International Federation's Regional Head of Delegation for East Asia in Beijing. "These areas keep getting hit by one storm after another and it's taking a heavy toll on the population, especially rural farmers.

"When natural disasters strike, people in rural areas not only lose their homes and crops, but also their sources of income, with little or no available resources to recover... so the current situation is leaving them highly vulnerable," Henley added.

On 2 August, the International Federation launched an emergency appeal for almost six million francs ($4.8 million USD/€3.8 million) to assist vulnerable families affected by the flooding and contributions to that appeal are still welcome.

So far, the provincial Red Cross branches have distributed roughly 1.8 million yuan ($220,000 USD) worth of relief items and financial assistance to the victims of the flooding.

Saomai is the eighth powerful storm to hit China in 2006, resulting in some of the worst floods seen in recent years. So far, natural disasters have killed almost 1,700 people in China this year - the highest casualty figure since 2001.

Throughout the affected areas, the Red Cross Society of China, with the support of the International Federation, is actively responding to the situation by helping with evacuations, providing first aid, distributing relief items and ensuring that communities are as prepared as possible when disaster strikes.

Media contacts for Asia Flooding:

Helena Laatio, Regional Information Delegate in Beijing: Tel. +86 139 117 106 35
Anna Nelson, Media Officer for Asia & the Pacific: Tel. +41 79 724 20 46
Media Service, duty phone (out of hours) Tel. + 41 79 416 38 81