Australia, Indonesia to Propose Disaster-Response Plan

SINGAPORE ~ Australia and Indonesia will propose a mechanism to speedily deploy military assets to respond to natural disaster in the Asia-Pacific region, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said this week.

The proposal will be submitted to leaders of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum meeting in Lima, Peru in November, Rudd said in a public lecture in Singapore.

“Australia and Indonesia are going to take a proposal to the APEC leaders meeting in Lima in Peru this year about regional disaster management coordination,” he told diplomats, business executives, academics and students on Tuesday.

“I believe we as a region must prepare,” he said, citing Red Cross figures showing that 241 natural disasters struck the Asia Pacific last year, resulting in more than 15,000 deaths.

This year, a cyclone in Myanmar, formerly called Burma, and an earthquake in China cost more than 150,000 lives, he added.

Rudd noted that when natural calamities strike, it is often the assets of the armed forces that can be “rapidly, effectively and immediately” mobilized.

“Therefore, we do need as a region to evolve a mechanism which enables a quick, speedy and coordinated deployment of armed forces assets to meet the challenge of natural disasters as and when they arise,” he said.

Rudd said the series of natural disasters in the region had reminded governments that the response to these calamities is often beyond the power of any individual country, no matter how big.

“But if we pool our resources and if we coordinate our assets, we can do more and we can get better results,” he said.

“In responding to a crisis, the first 24, 48 hours or 72 hours are the most critical. So what we need in this region are effective regional mechanisms to facilitate a quick response.”

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