Neighboring countries responded swiftly to the May 27 earthquake in Indonesia but a dedicated centre would have greatly assisted the effort, Malaysian Defence Minister Najib Razak said at the Shangri-La Dialogue, a high-level security meeting held annually in Singapore, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).
"In this regard, I like to propose the setting up of a regional-based humanitarian relief coordinating centre, by which member states will commit a set of forces, made up of civilian and military personnel, in the event a disaster strikes in any part of the region," Najib said.
"Training and contingency plans could be drawn out and in the event something happens and help is needed, then this centre could be activated," said Najib, who did not propose a location for such a centre.
At least 6,234 people were killed, some 46,000 others injured and more than 139,000 homes in the May 27 Indonesian quake.
The United Nations said Saturday it was in a race against time to help survivors still struggling to get food, shelter and urgent medical care one week after the Indonesian earthquake.
Tens of thousands of homeless prepared for their eighth night out in the open under makeshift tents, while others went into their second week awaiting treatment at overwhelmed hospitals.
The London-based non-governmental group Merlin meanwhile warned that survivors could be exposed to bird flu or salmonella infection, as more than 100 people in Bantul district were living in six large poultry sheds.
The Malaysian minister said the proposal was still at a very preliminary stage and if implemented, the centre should also involve other nations beyond Southeast Asia including the United States and Australia.
"I decided to toss it to this forum just to get some reaction before we really crystallize our thoughts as to the best modality," Najib said.
"And I think that within ASEAN, we have to show the way but it must not be exclusive to ASEAN," he said, referring to the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. They have a collective population of more than 500 million people.
Indonesia took the brunt of recent natural disasters that hit South East Asia.
The May earthquake was the third major tremor to devastate Indonesia in 18 months, the worst being the quake on Dec. 26, 2004, and its resulting tsunami which left some 170,000 people dead or missing around Aceh.
Indonesia sits on the Asia-Pacific's so-called "Ring of Fire", marked by heavy volcanic and tectonic activity.
Indonesian authorities on Sunday maintained a red alert at smoldering Mount Merapi, as activity at the volcano continued to intensify for an eighth straight day since the earthquake rocked the region.Last Mod: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16