A swift response in ChileA powerful earthquake measuring 8.8 on the moment magnitude scale struck Chile Saturday, killing hundreds of people. Many homes and buildings collapsed in the quake. Buildings in many cities have been razed, while many are still fearful of aftershocks and cave-ins. In the face of the catastrophe that occurred a month-and-a-half ago in Haiti, the global community is saddened and shocked at this new disaster.
Nothing is more important than time in a disaster. Emergency rescue workers race the clock to save lives in imminent peril from natural disasters. Therefore, the United Nations, the United States, China, the European Union and other Latin American countries, including Brazil, are all ready to lend a helping hand to those in need of aid. The Korean government also decided to establish guidelines for swift assistance at a meeting yesterday, keeping a rescue party and emergency medical team of 41 people on constant alert.
However, we are concerned that they might repeat the same mistakes that they made when rescuing Haiti quake victims. At that time, a rescue team arrived in Haiti five days after the catastrophic 7.0 earthquake due to delays in their dispatch. They failed to save a single life and instead could only collect the bodies of the victims. Although the government has decided to dispatch search and rescue teams to Chile, they are expected to arrive hours after the earthquake. They are expected to land at a civil airport and enter the country via Argentina, as the international airport in Chile’s capital Santiago is closed.
They will start to get involved in rescue operations underway in Chile only after the emergency situation has ended, as they did in Haiti. Saying that Chile is far away is nothing but an excuse. Chinese rescue teams using private planes arrived in Haiti in only two days.
The government unveiled a plan to allow its rescue teams to be dispatched overseas to stricken areas using troop transport planes on Jan. 25. International rescue teams, medical teams and the Korea International Cooperation Agency received training to load personnel and equipment onto C-130 troop transport aircraft at the airport in Seoul in an emergency.
We are obligated to provide rescue services and aid to any country that faces a national catastrophe, and Chile in particular is the only country in Latin America to sign a free trade agreement with Korea. We should consider the possibility of dispatching troop planes this time, in line with our global prestige as a host country of the G-20 Summit. We can enjoy that heightened prestige only if we are willing to walk through the fire for the sake of a country in imminent peril.