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Sophisticated equipment helps PLA to fight floods
2007/07/18

The Pontoon Brigade of Nanjing Military Area has stockpiled some highly sophisticated equipment to fight the floods that have battered south China since the end of June.

   Torrential rain began lashing the Huaihe River valley, the eastern area of Sichuan Province and the southern area of Shaanxi Province on June 28.

   A total of 131 people have been killed and 31 are missing as a result of floods, landslides, and mudflows triggered by the heavy rain.

   One of the 19 pontoon brigades of the People's Liberation Army (PLA),Nanjing Pontoon Brigade is responsible for flood-control, disaster relief and engineering tasks in the mid- and downstream Yangtze River.

   Open the doors of the warehouse of the Pontoon Brigade and you find inflatable craft piled on the left, tools for building float bridges ready in containers and anchor ropes coiled in the corner.

   The equipment is all hi-tech.

   Brigade commissar Deng Zhibing said the anchor ropes, made of nano materials, are only half the weight of previous ropes and can be carried by two people -- ten people were needed to carry the old ropes.

   Containers and portable toolboxes have been developed to transport floating bridge construction tools, which soldiers used to have to carry on their backs, Deng said.

   A Global Position System (GPS) has been introduced to determine the locations of anchor and floating bridges.

   The GPS has reduced the time needed to build an anchor bridge from three hours to eight minutes, and improved positioning precision from five meters to 1.5 meters, according to Deng.

   Deng said the brigade now uses computers to monitor tide changes and make real-time reports during the flood season.

   "The high-tech equipment will play an important role in this year's disaster relief," Deng said.

   In peacetime, the PLA is deeply involved in efforts to cope with natural disasters and protect people's lives and property.

   The PLA has dispatched 340,000 soldiers to carry out 2,800 relief tasks, evacuated 3.4 million people and saved about one billion yuan (132 million U.S. dollars) in the last two years.

   Nanjing Pontoon Brigade, established in 1981, is an engineering force in wartime and a disaster relief team in peacetime. It helped evacuate more than 60,000 people from the flood-hit Yangtze River valley in 1998.

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