Rescue team lands in Manila

Updated: 2013-11-21 01:33

By Li Xiaokun in Beijing and Zhang Yunbi in Manila (China Daily)

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More help on way as Beijing shows goodwill with typhoon rescue efforts

Rescue team lands in Manila

Emergency team members from the Red Cross Society of China prepare to leave Beijing Capital International Airport for the Philippines on Wednesday. The first group of 17 members will help with disaster relief work two weeks after Super Typhoon Haiyan struck, killing more than 4,500 people. [Wang Jing/ China Daily]

China's first group of disaster relief team members arrived in the typhoon-hit Philippines on Wednesday.

The 17 team members are due to be followed by the Chinese medical ship Peace Ark, one of the world's largest and best-equipped floating hospitals.

The team from the Red Cross Society of China will head for the central Philippine city of Cebu on Thursday, with the death toll from Super Typhoon Haiyan topping 4,500.

"We hope this mission can alleviate the lack of medical care in disaster-hit areas in the Philippines and show the Chinese people's goodwill to the Philippine people," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a daily briefing on Wednesday.

Hong said the government will send another 51-member emergency medical team and the Red Cross Society of China will dispatch 13 more people for disaster relief.

He also said the Peace Ark medical ship will depart on Thursday.

The China Soong Ching Ling Foundation will also donate 200 prefabricated houses worth 3.2 million yuan ($525,000), he added.

Zhao Baige, vice-president of the Red Cross Society of China, saw off the first group of disaster relief team members at Beijing Capital International Airport.

She said the team carried medicines, tents and quilts.

Team members have considerable rescue experience and are well trained in medical and social work as well as psychological guidance, she said.

All have taken part in rescue work after major natural disasters in recent years, including the magnitude-8.0 earthquake that struck Wenchuan in Sichuan province on May 12, 2008.

Yuan Shan, head of the Blue Sky Rescue Team under the Red Cross Society of China, said each of his eight team members who arrived in Manila has taken part in more than 100 rescue operations.

Chen Qinghong, a Philippine studies researcher at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said China's help to the Philippines has intensified in the aftermath of Haiyan.

"Originally, the Chinese government had no idea that it would be such a catastrophe," Chen said.

After Haiyan struck, the Chinese government and the Red Cross Society of China said they would each provide $100,000 for the Philippines. Last Thursday, China donated an additional $1.6 million in supplies.

On Sunday, Beijing said it was ready to send rescue and medical teams. A cargo plane carrying tents and blankets landed in Cebu on Tuesday.

"China has shown its humanitarian care as a responsible country, and it will not be affected by disputes in relations between Beijing and Manila," Chen said.

Relations between the two countries have been affected by territorial disputes in the South China Sea and the way Manila handled a hostage crisis in 2010 in which eight Hong Kong tourists died.

"China's assistance to Manila will help ease the tension to some extent and it can cultivate friendship between the two peoples," Chen said.

Xu Liping, a Southeast Asian studies researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the fact that the medical ship is being sent to help the Philippines has nothing to do with politics.

The 14,000-ton Peace Ark has 300 beds, 20 intensive care units, eight operating theaters and can handle 40 major cases requiring surgery a day.

It recently returned from a four-month deployment in Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean, during which thousands of patients were treated.

Xu said, "The interests of the typhoon-stricken people are above everything," adding that for now the two nations should put aside their disputes.

He said smooth communication between Beijing and Manila is of great significance in ensuring the efficiency of the rescue work.

Mo Jingxi in Beijing contributed to this story.