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30 April 2003

NATO Concludes Disaster Response Exercise in Uzbekistan

(Civil emergency teams from over 19 countries participate) (480)

During a NATO-led exercise held in the Ferghana Valley in Uzbekistan
April 28-30, civil emergency teams from over 19 countries fought
flooding and fires and sifted through rubble to rescue "victims."

More than 1,000 specialized personnel were involved in the exercise,
Ferghana 2003, which simulated an international response to a
devastating earthquake in the region. Involving both NATO and Partner
countries, Ferghana 2003 was the first Euro-Atlantic Partnership
Council exercise conducted in Central Asia. The United Nations Office
for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs also participated.

One of the major innovations of Ferghana 2003 was to test how the
participants, led by the local authorities, could progressively move
from a purely relief operation - with fire fighting, search and
rescue, first aid and medical treatment - to one involving progressive
rehabilitation of the affected areas, by reestablishing proper fresh
water connections for instance.

"Teams were not only working side by side, but really together, as a
big unit," one of the organizers said at the end of the exercise.

Following is a NATO press release:

(begin text)

NATO Press Release
30 April 2003

DISASTER RESPONSE PUT TO THE TEST IN FERGHANA

Civil emergency teams from over 19 countries, both participants and
observers, fought flooding, fires, and sifted through rubble to rescue
victims during a NATO-led exercise held in the Ferghana Valley in
Uzbekistan, 28-30 April 2003.

Over 1,000 specialized personnel were involved in the exercise -
Ferghana 2003 - which simulated an international response to a
devastating earthquake striking the Ferghana Valley region of
Uzbekistan.

This was the first NATO-led disaster response exercise to be held in
Central Asia.

A Formidable Challenge

The two-day scenario was intense, with teams having to attend to large
number of casualties, rescue trapped individuals and secure damaged
facilities on five separate sites. Despite the difficulties, all teams
successfully completed their tasks.

" We might have made some mistakes, but this is only an exercise. And
this is what exercises are for: to make mistakes but not to repeat
them the day we are confronted with a real disaster situation," said
one of the team leaders.

Partnership and cooperation

The exercise is part of the Alliance's Partnership for Peace programme
of cooperation between NATO and partner countries.

Civil emergency cooperation is a key aspect of the programme and each
year NATO's Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre
organizes exercises to practice disaster relief procedures. This
year's exercise was hosted by Uzbekistan, as part of its contribution
to Partnership for Peace.

One of the highlights of the exercise was the participation of teams
from the neighbouring countries - Kazakhstan and the Kyrghyz Republic
- as well as personnel from the United Nations.

Additional Information: Highlights, situation reports and high
resolution photos of the exercise:
http://www.nato.int/eadrcc/2003/ferghana/index.htm

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(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)