Oriental Morning Post – Weibo account shows a new trend in civic disaster relief methods

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Weibo account shows a new trend in popular disaster relief methods
By a senior figure from the charities sector 资深公益人士, Oriental Morning Post 东方早报, October 14, 2013

From the 6th to the 8th of October Typhoon Fitow caused a huge volume of rainfall to fall on Zhejiang province. The city of Yuyao in Ningbo county was the most seriously affected: more than 70% of the city was flooded, the elementary transport system was paralysed, and some districts lost power and water. According to Xinhua the city was cleared of water by the 13th. During the duration of the flooding, Yuyao’s non-governmental sector put in a remarkable performance to contribute to the relief effort. On the 7th October Ningbo businessman Munan decided to make his telephone number public and Weibo user ‘Baoxiaomei’ broadcast a message that contained Munan’s number. Together their actions mark a significant event that will improve the non-governmental disaster-relief response. On that day at 12.57 Baoxiaomei sent out a Weibo message that read “To all those in flooded vehicles: don’t move. People should retreat to a safe place and await rescue. We have a canoe, dinghy, speedboat, motorboat, specialist mountain off-road vehicle, 20 life jackets, and four 5-ton tow-trucks. And we also have several young and vigorous men! If you need help give Chief Mu a call on 137 •••••••••.” This is the distinguishing feature of the social media age. This one Weibo message changes disaster relief methods that have been unchanged for years. Within the government disaster relief system it’s added new content. From this one Weibo message, Chinese non-governmental charitable enterprise has inadvertently made progress. Perhaps this is the fortuitous nature of history. [Translated from the first three paragraphs]

Of course, across the world the armed forces will always take the lead role in responding to disasters. Only the mobilisation of the soldiers, management, and resources of the armed forces can fully meet the harsh conditions of a disaster. However, the response of every country’s armed forces to a disaster is often slow, and often attracts criticism from the media. This is because the mobilisation of such large resources requires a huge amount of decision-making time. Therefore, when disasters occur, the ability of NGOs, and individuals via Weibo and the NGO’s internet services, to quickly participate in relief efforts, makes them an important asset. No country or place can rely solely on the government to successfully complete a disaster relief mission on it’s own. An orderly and modern society, public consciousness, and public welfare NGOs can help to complement the armed forces by filling in the areas where they fall short. As for public welfare NGOs, they should focus on helping the people affected by the disaster, and relegate concerns of money-raising and news-releases to second place. This is the humanitarian principle of disaster relief work. I hope that through the inspiration provided by Baoxiaomei’s Weibo messages, Yuyao city’s civic response to its disaster can gradually turn into the norm. A nation will perpetually be faced with disasters and catastrophes that it cannot avoid. However, a nation should not perpetually face these disasters with an absence of mature public welfare organisations and volunteers. [Translated from the final three paragraphs]

Translation by Tom Bannister. See Article for full text. (Chinese)

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