More than 15,000 persons have died and 40,000 are missing following the devastating earthquake that hits south-west China.
And in cyclone-hit Myanmar, the UN estimates a death toll of 100,000. While Myanmar's ruling military junta is reluctant to allow foreign relief workers and there are growing charges of diversion of aid by the military, the Chinese authorities are acting promptly to rescue people.
Perhaps the Beijing Olympics has forced China to open itself to scrutiny by the media. In a democracy like India, the issue is more about the need for resource mobilisation and speedy action.
Despite a free media and access to information, we are ill prepared in emergencies like the recent Jaipur serial bomb blasts.
Emergencies including natural disasters like cyclones, floods, earthquakes and tsunamis as well as terrorist attacks, like the one in Jaipur, leave us feeling utterly helpless and wanting for lack of timely quality response from trained trauma service providers, whether they are government agencies, civil society organisations or individual self-help groups.
India's National Disaster Management Plan focuses more on natural disasters and most strategies are planned with government agencies playing a lead role.
Some of these responsibilities could be delegated to civil society groups, particularly for interacting with survivors, facilitating relief and counselling.
Trained local teams should be equipped to deal swiftly and efficiently in any emergency. In most disasters and smaller scale emergencies, where human lives and livelihoods are destroyed or endangered, response time is crucial to prevent further loss.
Carrying out rescue operations safely, providing timely access to medical care and counselling victims should be entrusted to trained disaster managers.
In the aftermath of the Bhuj quake in Gujarat, rescue operations were hampered because of lack of sufficient emergency retrieval equipment and tools, including cranes and earthmovers.
When donations in kind medicines, clothes, toys, books and household goods started pouring in, incompetent handling resulted in wastage and pilferage.
An important component of disaster management is the creation of public awareness. What should one do when faced with a flood, cyclone, quake or terrorist attack whether one is at home, in school, office or at sea fishing?
Most would panic, and probably end up doing just what they shouldn't, and thus put themselves and others at grave risk.
To be better prepared, educational institutions and offices should regularly carry out disaster-related safety drills. Courses on disaster management should be included in school and college curriculums.