About 1,000 troops from the Macau garrison of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army have been dispatched from their barracks for emergency disaster relief operation.
The deployment came after Macau Chief Executive Fernando Chui asked the State Council for the military’s involvement as the former Portuguese enclave reeled from the devastation brought about by Typhoon Hato. Nine people have now been reported dead with hundreds hospitalized.
This is the first time the Chinese military is assisting in local affairs since Macau’s 1999 handover.
State news agency Xinhua reported that the garrison mobilized its 1,000-strong troops and started clearing streets of debris and doing disinfection in areas still submerged after Wednesday’s flooding. About 800 extra soldiers have been drawn from the neighboring city of Zhuhai.
Residents are fuming over the SAR government’s failures from disaster prevention to emergency rescue.
But many local residents applauded and cheered when they saw the troops. PLA trucks carrying food and tents, believed to be ferried from the mainland, were spotted in the gambling capital.
A deputy commander of the garrison was reported as saying that the situation was worse than expected and he couldn’t say when the disaster relief operation would end. Four soldiers were sent to hospitals due to heat stroke.
Macau’s Basic Law states that the chief executive can request, through Beijing, PLA soldiers stationed in the SAR to assist in disaster relief or maintain order. Hong Kong’s mini constitution has a similar clause.
When asked if Hong Kong will also seek help from the Chinese military in the event of such a disaster, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said she would not answer hypothetical questions, adding there are mechanisms in place. Lam said the Hong Kong government would offer help to Macau.
Lawmaker Regina Ip, a former security minister, said Hong Kong has contingency response that was proven highly reliable during Hato’s passage and in previous typhoons.
Loss of lives has been rare in recent decades thanks to its world-class infrastructure and first responders. Ip said Hong Kong is capable of dealing with situations like this on its own.
A source said the PLA’s Hong Kong garrison is on standby and can send soldiers to Macau at any time.
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Macau leader apologizes for poor handling of Typhoon Hato