ARRIVING IN HAITI: The Chinese international rescue team arrives in Port-au-Prince, capital of Haiti, on January 14. The team consists of more than 60 rescuers (XINHUA)
SEARCH AND RESCUE: The Chinese international rescue team searches the ruins of a collapsed building in Haiti on January 14. Eight Chinese peacekeepers are still among the missing (XINHUA)
A Chinese rescue team arrived in quake-stricken Haiti early January 14 local Haitian time, to begin a 15-day rescue mission. Up to 50,000 people may have been killed by the earthquake, the strongest to hit the Caribbean island since 1770. Among the missing are eight Chinese peacekeepers.
After the earthquake occurred at about 5 p.m. on January 12, Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao ordered relevant departments to organize rescue operations and services for the Haitian people. The mission includes rescue efforts for those buried under rubble and protecting Chinese nationals while distributing humanitarian aid to the general public in Haiti.
The rapid deployment of the Chinese rescue team has garnered international recognition. Among the 16 countries announcing their intentions to send rescue teams, China's was the fourth to arrive in Haiti, following the United States, Iceland and nearby Puerto Rico. The vast distance between China and Haiti has made the speed with which the operation was carried out all the more remarkable.
China and Haiti have yet to establish formal diplomatic relations.
Tian Yixiang, a colonel at the General Staff Headquarters of the People's Liberation Army, credited the quick response to a strong desire to provide assistance and military professionalism, coupled with an effective emergency response mechanism.
The Chinese rescue team gained invaluable experience during relief efforts after the devastating Wenchuan Earthquake that shook China's Sichuan Province on May 12, 2008.
The rescue mission's on site presence will last 15 days -- a period of time that was determined based on the amount of supplies brought by the team.
With more than 60 soldiers, the team is divided into three groups: a search and rescue team, a medical aid team and a logistical support group.
Most of the team members have participated in rescue missions in previous operations at home and abroad, allowing them to develop rich field experience.
Included in the teams supplies are more than 10 tons of equipment not limited to search, rescue, medical aid and communications equipment. The team also brought highly trained search and rescue dogs
A medical team made up of 15 doctors from China's Armed Police General Hospital has already established a mobile hospital in the disaster area to provide medical care to quake victims.
While providing support to the Haitian people is a part of the overall mission, one important task of the rescue team is to save the eight missing Chinese peacekeepers that may have been buried by the earthquake.
When the earthquake occurred, they were discussing peacekeeping matters with other United Nations officials at the headquarters of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti. The building collapsed in the earthquake. The rescue team started searching the ruins as soon as they arrived, but have yet to find the peacekeepers.
Additional Chinese peacekeepers have been accounted for. Currently, China has 142 peacekeepers in Haiti, among whom 125 are with the peacekeeping police anti-riot squad. The other 17 are with the civilian peacekeeping force. Six of the peacekeepers are women.
The peacekeepers arrived in Haiti in June 2009 on an 8-month peacekeeping mission.
According to a UN official, a large number of UN staff has been reported missing. There are altogether 9,000 peacekeepers in Haiti. Currently, the UN is unable to confirm the number injured among them.