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Australia proposes disaster rapid response plan

Australia: Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard proposed an ambitious ”disaster rapid response” plan during East Asia Summit, to leaders from across Asia, with Australia offering to fund new emergency measures for the region to better cope with a Japan-style earthquake and tsunami, Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The plan drawn up by Australia and Indonesia – which hosts the East Asia Summit – involved countries including China and the US instantly sharing sensitive satellite images, damage and casualty reports after a natural disaster. Australian officials are hopeful the plan and its likely endorsement by the 18-member summit will encourage a pattern of peaceful co-operation in the region.

The disaster response plan, obtained by The Age, calls for a relaxing of national border controls which might ”impede the timely delivery of support”. This could include waiving visa restrictions on foreign emergency workers, along with quarantine and customs barriers and possibly the deployment of military forces in response to an emergency.

The plan warned that the frequency of natural disasters is accelerating sharply, more than doubling in the past two decades, with many of the world’s deadliest catastrophes in the past two years occurring in Asia.

The plan has a three-year timeline to ”simplify and improve disaster response”, starting with an online network for governments to immediately share information. A register of relief stores and the location of specialised emergency tools would also be created to better deliver aid in the crucial hours following a disaster.

Australia has offered to pay for officials to act as a secretariat in support of regional disaster management, although the estimated cost is not spelt out.

The plan also calls for simulated emergencies by 2014 to test the preparations of authorities in case disaster strikes.

Source: www.smh.com.au