China steps up bioterror evacuation plans

China's central government has given the task of creating an escape plan for tourists at Tianamen Square in the event of a bioterror event to Professor Liu Shuhua, deputy director of the department of atmospheric sciences at Peking University.

Conventional wisdom has said that the straight, wide boulevards on the western and eastern sides of Tianamen Square, which are one-way and five lanes wide, would be the best escape routes in the event of an emergency.

Liu and his team, however, have used modeling to show that those routes could be fatal. A southwesterly wind would blow anthrax spores to the eastern boulevard and, owing to principals of aerodynamics, the spores would remain in that area.

The study pinpointed the best times and locations for a terrorist attack in Beijing, revealing that when a northwesterly wind is blowing, the best spot for an attack would be from a car on Changan Avenue north of the Great Hall of the People. This spot would allow the toxic gas to spread quickly to a large area on the square.

"When such an incident happens, a security department of the government will use software and a super computer that we developed for them to determine the dispersion pattern of the toxic gas," Liu told The South China Morning Post.

"They will have the result in less than a minute, together with the safest escape routes. We have most of the city's landmark areas in the database. We have done tests. The results are very good."

The study comes at a time when China has elevated its threat level owing to its increased presence to the world through its hosting of international events including the Olympics and the World Expo.

Experts have said that Beijing is prepared for an attack as a result of its hosting of the 2008 Olympics. Other mainland cities, though, do not have the updated conventional counterterrorism measures and latest technologies to protect their citizens.