Rescuers enter a village to evacuate stranded people in flood water in Dexing, East China's Jiangxi province, June 20, 2022. (Photo/Xinhua)
Casualties caused by natural disasters across the country came in at a record low in 2022, despite increasing extreme weather events due to climate change and the impacts of COVID-19 on rescue operations, according to the Ministry of Emergency Management.
Compared with the average of the previous five years, the number of people left missing and dead in natural disasters last year went down by 30.8 percent, according to a media release from the ministry, which was made public following the conclusion of its annual work conference in Beijing on Thursday.
"It is the lowest since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949," the ministry said, without disclosing the specific number.
The direct economic losses caused by these natural disasters decreased by 25.3 percent, it continued.
The ministry also noted significant decreases in the number of accidents and casualties in workplaces across the country. In 2022, the two numbers dropped by 27 percent and 23.6 percent from 2021, respectively.
The release said the ministry has adhered to the principle that "nothing is more precious than people's lives", as it strived to cope with the frequent extreme weather events and an uptick in the number of extraordinarily serious accidents.
Many regions reported record-high temperatures in 2021. For a period of time, the country simultaneously suffered frequent floods, drought and forest fires, it said. A total of roughly 11 billion yuan ($1.6 billion) was allocated to help cope with the situation.
The ministry organized 185 emergency consultations and launched 89 emergency responses in 2022, it said, adding that 114 work groups were dispatched to the front lines to guide disaster relief work in floods, earthquakes, mountain fires and other accidents.
It has accelerated the construction of a national emergency rescue system that can respond to different types of disasters, it said. While a national emergency response headquarters has been established, the construction of five regional headquarters has started.
With the establishment of 11 new national teams dedicated to workplace rescue missions, it said the number of such rescue teams in China has reached 102.
Thanks to a coordination mechanism that aims to promote the participation of civilian rescue teams in emergency operations, 2,300 civilian teams with a total of 49,000 members have been incorporated into the national emergency response system, it said.
The past year also saw the emergency response capability increasingly strengthened at the grassroots level, the ministry said. Fire control stations were set up in over 14,000 township-level areas across the country with 63,000 employees.
The ministry vowed a series of measures to further strengthen the country's emergency response system in 2023.
One of its priorities is to promote a highly coordinated and efficient command system. The ministry will make efforts to accelerate the establishment of emergency response headquarters at the provincial, city and county levels, it said.
Efforts will also be made to intensify the accountability system in safety management, it said. A performance assessment mechanism, for example, will be introduced for leading executives and safety management personnel from companies in high-risk industries.