President Vladimir Putin: Mr Shoigu, today is your professional holiday — Rescuers’ Day. I want to congratulate you as the head of the ministry and all your personnel, all your staff, all those who work in the Emergencies Ministry system on this holiday, and wish you all the best.
Sergei Shoigu: Thank you, Vladimir Vladimirovich.
Vladimir Putin: I hope next year you will have less work, and so let us now discuss how to do that.
We all see what is happening in Asia. It was a disaster, one which, as is now being established, has claimed more than twenty thousand lives. In this context, we ourselves need once more to return to issues of forecasting events of this kind, forecasting and timely response to possible and so devastating events. We discussed these themes following the calamities we experienced ourselves, including in southern Russia. Now let us take up the subject again, and then examine the results achieved by the ministry in 2004.
Sergei Shoigu: Thank you for the congratulation, Vladimir Vladimirovich, it was a high assessment indeed of our work, but the elements have shown once again that we have chosen above all the correct course. Two years ago, while attending our test range, you set us the main and basic task — which is monitoring and predicting the situation.
In the intervening period we have succeeded in setting up, first, a federal centre for monitoring and forecasting. Second, in all federation constituent members we now have similar centres, and in fact we completed this year a programme to establish monitoring and forecasting centres. What is more, I would like to say that 68 of them are centres staffed with paid personnel. In other words, if in the past and now, the remaining regions attract specialists from other structures, 68 regions have regular staff here. This is the first point. Second, our Far Eastern tidal wave warning centre is in working condition. What has occurred in Asia could have well been forecast. It could have been forecast if there had been such a warning centre. We do have one in the Far East: Sakhalin, the Kuril range and Kamchatka are all subject to tidal waves given that a fault runs through the ocean zone there and enters the continent. But it, of course, needs additional financial injections. Thank God, the Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Terrestrial Physics have been able to preserve their personnel potential, which is most important.
Vladimir Putin: We discussed this at a cabinet session this morning. The extent and quality of coordination between the Emergencies Ministry and meteorologists was also raised. What are you doing in this respect now?
Sergei Shoigu: A unified Russian system of seismic observation was established some time ago. As you know, we have five systems here, which have existed and continue to exist. One is a Defence Ministry system, which was set up to monitor the testing of nuclear weapons. The second system is one run by Gidromet, the third system belongs to the former Gosstroi, and the fourth belongs to the Academy of Sciences, which, in fact, includes the Institute of Terrestrial Physics. Proceeding from that we put together an extensive programme to set up a unified system, a unified network combining all these services. Over the past five years it has been regularly financed. But, unfortunately, there is a catch. The programme to establish this is about 40% financed. In fact, the reason I came to see you today concerns this issue as well. We need to integrate them with each other more intensively, and to arrange a continuous and nearly automatic exchange of information between seismic observation centres and between the systems themselves within the ministries.
Proceeding from this, of course, in the quake-prone zones that we have at present, we should pay more attention to reinforcing our buildings and structures, facilities accommodating people all 24 hours a day: hospitals, houses for the disabled, and homes for the elderly, that is, those facilities from which people cannot be evacuated at a moment's notice. And I think that in the next two years we should, of course, set the task — we are ourselves setting it — of putting the final touches to the equipment available there and converting it to more advanced, or digital, technologies. This programme has made it possible in the Far East and Kamchatka to renovate the equipment and introduce new systems — in about 70% of the cases.
Vladimir Putin: Sergei Kuzhugetovich, you must be ready now, if necessary, to provide assistance to our citizens in the area of that disastrous event, you must be ready immediately to step in and provide assistance, evacuate some if necessary, or render medical aid right on the spot.
Sergei Shoigu: Vladimir Vladimirovich, we sent two planes there tonight in line with your instructions. We also began drawing up an evacuation plan — should the need arise — to evacuate our citizens from there. According to our calculations, there are about 1,500 or 1,600 [Russians] there. The figures are being updated, because many people flew there via third countries, not directly from Russia. We, naturally, have put a hospital, medical staff and reserves on standby. And when our advance group arrives there and assesses the situation on the spot (what else may be required), we will naturally ask for the go-ahead to respond.