A chartered aircraft carrying a Chinese medical team and aid material headed to Haiti yesterday to provide assistance to the quake-ravaged country amid worries of an outbreak of epidemic diseases.
On board are a 40-member medical and epidemic-control team and 20 tons of food and medical supplies, the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) said.
Also on the flight are four Chinese peacekeeping police officers to replace the four who were killed in the earthquake. The country has a 125-member peacekeeping force in Haiti.
The China Eastern Airlines A340 took off from Beijing Capital International Airport yesterday afternoon and is expected to arrive in Haiti at 3 pm today local time (early tomorrow, Beijing Time).
It will be the second Chinese medical team to help quake victims. The earlier one, a 50-member China International Search and Rescue (CISAR) team, was among the first to arrive in Port-au-Prince after the earthquake and set up a medical center within days of the quake. The team leaves Haiti for China today.
The latest team, comprising 30 medical staff and 10 assistants, will patrol quake-hit areas, offer first aid on site, help disinfect the surrounding areas and assist local hospitals in resuming operations.
"We must provide help as soon as possible since many people are injured and epidemics are spreading," said Wang Yurong, head of the medical staff and deputy chief of General Hospital of Nanjing Military Command.
Most of the medical staff, from four major army hospitals, are experienced in disaster relief. They have either participated in relief efforts in Sichuan after the province was hit by an 8.0-magnitude quake in May 2008, or overseas peacekeeping missions, according to officials.
Guo Jinpeng, an official with the disease prevention and control department of the Academy of Military Medical Sciences who has twice been to Africa on medical missions, said: "We have been closely following the situation in Haiti, preparing to offer medical services and help in epidemic control."
The team will also counsel quake victims, said Zhang Yanling, the PLA General Logistics Department's health chief. He added that some members are specialized in treating tropical and infectious diseases.
Since 2003, the army has dispatched 78 teams with over 1,700 staff on overseas peacekeeping missions, Zhang said.
Although most "speak at least one foreign language", the team also has French and English translators, said Qian Lihua, director of the foreign affairs office of the Ministry of National Defense.
Qian also said the Chinese team will cooperate with other countries' teams, and is planning to stay 15 to 20 days in Port-au-Prince.
Qian added that "Chinese and other UN peacekeeping police there will protect them".