Chinese Officials Give Kudos to Amateur Radio Operators
As disaster recovery efforts continue following the earthquake in the Wenchuan area of China's Sichuan province on May 12, China's Information Office of the State Council reports that the death toll has reached 67,183 persons as of May 27. Communications in some of the surrounding areas were cut off, and communications in some other areas experienced network congestion due to drastically increased traffic. According to the Chinese Radio Sports Association (CRSA) -- the Chinese IARU Member-Society -- Chinese government officials and the news media have recognized that when communications failed after the earthquake, Amateur Radio operators stepped in to provide vital links.
CRSA designated 14.270, 7.050 and 7.060 MHz for emergency communications use during the quake, but these frequencies are now no longer restricted for this use; however, should a severe aftershock occur, CRSA said it will make the call for them to be kept clear again.
On Monday, May 26, China Central Television (CCTV) reported that, "When all other communication means failed, Amateur Radio operators came out! An Amateur Radio emergency communication network was set up, and one of the commanders, Liu Hu [BG8AAS], called for Amateur Radio operators on air to provide services for disaster relief."
Fan Bin, BA1RB, on behalf of CRSA, said, "Thankfully, one main repeater survived during the earthquake. This repeater provided 100 km coverage to Mianyang. Amateur Radio operators from Chengdu, Shenzhen, He'nan went to the center of the disaster area, set up repeaters in Beichuan County and provided various valuable first hand information from the center."
CRSA officials said they hoped to report more detailed information on the role of Amateur Radio emergency communications in the big earthquake at a later date. In the meantime, Fan said, CRSA acknowledged that the main organizer of local Amateur Radio traffic, Luo Minglin, BY8AA, "continuously coordinated VHF/UHF communications for a 100 km radius from Chengdu, the capital of southwest China's province of Sichuan. More repeaters were set up in both Beichuan and Mianyang -- among the worst hit areas outside the epicenter -- to form an effective Amateur Radio communication network."
Zhang Zhen, BG8DOU, said that right after the earthquake, "Two ham radio operators drove to the center of the earthquake area and had a repeater set up by the morning of May 13. This repeater enabled the transmission of rescue instructions and status reports, and was a main communication channel for public use. The repeater carried communications for the Mayor of Mianzhu City who gave orders to those on the front line rescue and recovery activity."
The CRSA said it appreciates the support given by the Amateur Radio community in helping to keep clear the emergency communication frequencies of 7050 kHz, 7060 kHz and 14270 kHz during the critical period after the earthquake: "Thanks for the cooperation and efforts made by all Amateur Radio societies." The radio society also acknowledged having received inquiries and the "warm concerns" of Amateur Radio societies worldwide. -- Information provided by Fan Bin, BA1RB, on behalf of CRSA, via IARU Region 3 Disaster Communications Committee Chairman Jim Linton VK3PC