Brussels, 17 August 2009
The European Commission activated its Community Mechanism for Civil Protection over the weekend to help address emergencies in Taiwan and Portugal. At the request of authorities in Taiwan the mechanism has been activated to help the local population affected by heavy flooding and mudslides in different parts of the country. Following major forest fires, Portugal also requested assistance through the Mechanism.
Regarding the situation in Taiwan, preliminary assessments conclude that many remote and isolated settlements and locations across the country have been affected by the natural disaster. Currently more than 100 deaths are confirmed. More than 10,000 citizens are reported homeless and many are without access to drinkable water.
So far, assistance is being provided by Sweden through the Mechanism in the form of much-needed water purification liquid. Several other countries are currently exploring possibilities to provide further assistance. The Swedish assistance is scheduled to arrive in Taipei on Thursday. The Commission’s Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC) has deployed a coordination and assessment team that arrives on site today (Monday 17 August), joining forces with the national authorities and international partners to facilitate the arrival and distribution of the relief items.
The Community Civil Protection Mechanism was activated after Typhoon Morakot hit Taiwan causing the worst flooding the island has seen in over 50 years. Besides the impact on the local population, houses have been destroyed and extensive damage to infrastructure such as roads and bridges has been reported. The most affected areas are located in the central and southern part of Taiwan where hundreds of villages have been cut off by floods and mudslides.
Due to disruption of infrastructure, immediate needs include temporary shelter, access to clean water, disinfectants and helicopters to transport relief items, trucks and excavators to isolated areas.
The Community Mechanism was activated on 13 August following consultations with the Swedish Presidency and the EC Economic and Trade Office in Taiwan. The MIC, based in Brussels, has deployed a team of coordination experts from France, Sweden and the United Kingdom, as well as a MIC liaison officer.
The Mechanism was also activated during the week-end following the spreading of forest fires in parts of Portugal and weather forecasts indicating high temperatures and low humidity for the majority of the country .
The MIC responded to the request from the Portuguese authorities by making use of the European tactical reserve of fire fighting aircraft (EUFFTR) that it established this summer to assist Member States that face major forest fires. The planes assisted in extinguishing two fires on Sunday afternoon. It is the fourth time the aircraft have been deployed to assist Member States this summer.
The Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC) is operated by DG Environment in the European Commission. It is the operational heart of the Community Mechanism for Civil Protection. It is available on a 24/7 basis, and provides countries access to the community civil protection platform. Any country affected by a major disaster – inside or outside the EU – can launch a request for assistance through the MIC.
During emergencies the MIC plays three important roles: serving as a communications hub for the exchange of requests and offers of assistance; providing information on civil protection preparedness and response to participating states as well as a wider audience of interested stakeholders; supporting co-ordination of the provision of European assistance. In 2008 the EP earmarked € 3,5 million for the pilot project “the European Forest Fire Tactical Reserve”, with two Canadair CL 215 fire fighting aircrafts available this summer to assist Member States.