Rescue workers used sniffer dogs and thermal-imaging devices to search rubble on Monday in Southeast Asia's first coordinated disaster-response drill, which simulated a building collapse after an earthquake.
Sirens wailed and beacons flashed as fire trucks and ambulances raced in heavy rain to the Malaysian site of the drill, which also involved rescuers from Brunei and Singapore, fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
"The execution of the exercise is conducted only by the three countries," Erie Trisanty, an ASEAN official, told Reuters by telephone. "But other nations will be there as observers."
Spurred by the tsunami that devastated much of Asia last December, ASEAN is boosting efforts to tighten cooperation on disaster management across its borders. Its members signed a pact on coordinating rescue efforts in Laos on July 26.
Last week, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand launched air patrols of the Malacca Strait to deter piracy, in another sign that Southeast Asian nations want to tackle problems jointly to resolve decades of mutual suspicion.
"This is the first such ASEAN-level exercise after the ASEAN agreement," said Nadzrin Siron, a security official in the state of Selangor, where the drill was staged at a construction site about 30 km (20 miles) south of the Malaysian capital, reports Reuters.
"This is first ever kind of disaster exercise conducted jointly by ASEAN countries," said Raman Letchumanan, head of the ASEAN environment and disaster management unit.
"It is to establish a standard operating procedure so that in the future if we have another disaster, we can respond quickly without delays," said Raman, from the ASEAN secretariat in Jakarta.
"Last year's tsunami provided us with a wake-up call. Through this simulation exercise we can identify what are the bottlenecks so that we can smooth the entry of rescue teams into the disasterregion," he told AFP.
The exercise involving 10 nations operated on the premise that Selangor state, Malaysia's most industrialized region which surrounds the capital Kuala Lumpur, had borne the brunt of the quake, informs Jakarta Post.