Most houses in rural areas cannot withstand even
moderate earthquakes, so the China Seismological Bureau has pledged to help in
rebuilding and retrofitting them in the coming years.
"We will launch more pilot projects throughout the countryside in the next
five years, which will enable structures to resist earthquakes measuring up to 6
on the Richter scale," Du Wei, vice-director of the bureau's Seismic Hazard
Prevention and Mitigation Department, told China Daily in Beijing yesterday.
sits amid the rubble of his pigsty which was destroyed by an earthquake in
Dingyuan, East China's Anhui Province, yesterday. The quake, which
measured 4.2 on the Richter scale, hit Dingyuan in the morning but no
casualties have been reported. (Reuters)|
The bureau has yet to conduct a nationwide survey of rural homes' quake-proof
status, but sampling in western China indicated at least 80 per cent of the
buildings do not have the least defence against possible tremors, Du said.
Speaking on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the Tangshan Earthquake in
Hebei Province which levelled tens of thousands of buildings and killed at least
240,000 people, Du said that in many areas, farmers could not afford to build
safer houses, like those completely of bricks.
In addition to economic factors, the situation is partly attributable to lack
of guidance from the government, the official conceded.
Even when affluent rural dwellers can afford to build better homes, many go
for aesthetics rather than scientific design to withstand quakes, Du said. As a
result, it is not rare that an earthquake measuring 6 would devastate a huge
number of houses, he said.
Sometimes, even a minor quake like the one which measured 4.2 on the Richter
scale that shook Sanshui region of South China's Guangdong Province in 1997
could cause severe losses, the official said. More than 1,600 houses were
But homes properly designed and reinforced make a difference, Du said, citing
the experience of the Datong-Yanggao region in North China's Shanxi Province,
where houses were rebuilt to resist strong earthquakes after it was rocked by a
temblor measuring 6.1 in 1989.
The buildings in the region survived a subsequent 5.8 earthquake two years
later, according to Du.
In addition to educating farmers, seismology agencies will work with local
governments to launch more pilot quake-proof housing projects and provide
technical services, Du said.
Vice-Minister of Construction Huang Wei said his ministry supports the idea
of improving houses to withstand not only earthquakes, but also other natural
disasters such as landslides, floods and typhoons.