Minister of Emergency Situations Sergey Shoigu said the ministry's crucial tasks for the next year included establishment of a state rescue service, considering the coming unification of the ministry and the state fire-fighting rescue service. Shoigu, who is taking part in the all-Russian convention of the Emergencies Ministry top officials, noted that prevention of emergencies was among the ministry's major tasks for the year 2002. According to Shoigu, the ministry's rescue teams have conducted almost 18,000 rescue operations over the 9 months of the current year and have saved over 11,000 people. Participants in the convention noted that a total of 932 various emergency situations had taken place in Russia over the 9 months of 2001 leaving 1,024 people dead. The total number of emergency situations has increased by 12% compared to the same period of last year. Participants in the convention noted that the Russian Emergencies Ministry had taken an active part in international humanitarian operations, including delivery of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, mine clearance in Kosovo, and the rescue operation after an earthquake in India. The convention emphasised the crucial role of the ministry in restoring the town of Lensk (Yakutia, north of the Far East) destroyed by a flood.