Taiping Island, May 21 (CNA) The Taiwan government plans to cooperate with countries close to Taiping Island in the South China Sea on humanitarian assistance and rescue, Coast Guard Administration (CGA) Director-General Chen Kuo-en (陳國恩) disclosed Tuesday, during a multi-agency humanitarian rescue drill off the coast of the Taiwan-administered island.
“Rendering humanitarian aid and rescue is a universal value shared by (people) all over the world,” Chen told CNA during the exercise. “As long as it is something conducive to cooperation, the government will endeavor to achieve it.”
Chen said the government hopes to hold joint drills with countries near Taiping Island to strengthen rescue and relief capabilities at sea and will do whatever is necessary to facilitate such cooperation.
He was responding to a question on whether the government would consider sending people injured in waters near Taiping Island to hospitals in neighboring countries for emergency treatment, in view of the fact that it takes 3.5 hours by military transport plane to reach Taiwan.
In the drill, two aircraft, four boats and four unmanned aerial vehicles carried out a rescue after a simulated crash of a 25-seat passenger plane into a fishing boat 5 nautical miles northeast of Taiping Island during an attempted emergency landing, according to the CGA.
Code named “Nanyuan No. 4,” the exercise required a response to the simulated crash that left one passenger on the plane dead and two severely injured, while three of the 12 crew members on the fishing boat sustained minor injuries.
The unmanned aerial vehicles were used to assess the situation, locate the “victims,” and drop them an auto inflatable life raft.
On land, medical personnel at the port quickly assessed the condition of the injured then rushed them to Nansha Hospital, the only medical facility on Taiping Island, which has a resident doctor and a nurse on call around the clock, the CGA said.
Due to the severity of his injuries, one of the victims was put aboard a C-130 transport plane in an ambulance and flown to Kaohsiung Armed Forces General Hospital in southern Taiwan.
Earlier this year, Taiping Island, also known as Itu Aba, received its first ambulance, which was purchased and allocated by the CGA in order to improve Taiwan’s humanitarian rescue and relief capability in waters near the island, according to Chen.
The ambulance will allow faster transfer of injured people to a hospital, either on Taiping or in Taiwan proper, he said.
The CGA said a simulated “airplane accident” was used in the drill for the first time, in an effort to develop the capability to deal with a combination of different types of accidents in the area.
The drill was part of the government’s effort to implement President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) 2016 policy to transform Taiping Island into a base for humanitarian assistance.
It was held jointly by the CGA, the Ministry of the Transportation and Communications, the Ministry of National Defense, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Health and Welfare, and the National Rescue Command Center.
Taiwan has been administering Taiping Island, the largest natural island among the contested Spratly Islands, since 1956.
(By Stacy Hsu)