SERDANG, Malaysia (AP) - With sirens wailing, ambulances and fire trucks arrived at the skeleton of a 20-story condominium. Rescue workers ran in with power saws, as neighbouring countries prepared to rush in help and equipment by air.
In a scene simulating a devastating earthquake, rescue workers and officials of Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore sprang into action Monday to carry out their first-ever regional disaster response exercise.
"The scenario is that an earthquake has rocked the whole of Malaysia, causing the prime minister to declare an emergency and seek foreign assistance,'' said Nadzri Siron, the official in charge of the exercise.
According to the scenario, many people were trapped in the rubble, he said.
The exercise was conducted under an agreement signed in July by the foreign ministers of the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
It began with scores of Malaysian firefighters and members of a special response team conducting search and rescue operations in an abandoned, partly constructed 20-story building in Serdang on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur that was supposed to have been damaged by a quake.
Workers in blue overalls and red helmets rushed in with empty stretchers and returned with dummies simulating the dead or injured.
Other workers went in with power saws and drills to dig through the "rubble.''
As it became apparent that the "toll'' was high, a call was issued for regional assistance from Brunei and Singapore, which sent help by air.
Nadzri said the exercise would provide guidance and lessons for the development of regional preparedness and cooperation during disasters, such as last year's tsunami.
The Philippines designated a "chief referee'' for the exercise, heading a group of 10 referees, or analyst-observers, from the 10 Asean countries.
The exercise is to be followed by an evaluation meeting on Tuesday and a workshop with the United Nations on Wednesday to discuss logistics and regional disaster management.
Participants in the exercise included 182 people from Malaysia, 27 from Singapore and six from Brunei. - AP
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