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Safety lessons heeded after 2008 disaster

By AN BAIJIE in Lushan, Sichuan, and XU WEI in Beijing | China Daily | Updated: 2013-04-23 02:06

Even though the 2008 Sichuan earthquake left Lushan county largely unscathed, with the epicenter 300 km away, residents say the experience they gained from that disaster proved invaluable on Saturday.

The magnitude-7 quake that struck Lushan on Saturday morning and killed nearly 200 people was far less destructive than the quake that struck Wenchuan five years ago, killing more than 69,000.

Safety lessons heeded after 2008 disaster"The earthquake (in 2008) was so quick and left you no time even to think," said Huang Min, a 33-year-old resident from Lushan's Lu-yang town. "This time, we knew that the head needs the most protection and that you should always keep yourself away from walls."

Huang, who owns an automobile workshop, said he nearly failed to escape from his two-story building as the roll-door to the property could not be opened when the earthquake struck.

Huang said he knew many elderly people who stood close to a wall and were killed as the house crumbled.

"Even though those warnings seemed cliches as the authorities used display boards, circulars and billboards (about what to do in earthquakes), it can mean the difference between life and death," he said.

Li Zhuohui, chief of the Xianfeng community in Lu-yang, said the community has been organizing regular earthquake drills since the 2008 disaster.

"We realized the importance of a plan after that earthquake and that we needed to be prepared as we live in a quake-prone area," he said.

The town organized a group of male residents as part of its earthquake contingency plan. After the quake struck on Saturday, the group carried out search and rescue operations and cleaned up roads.

Regular drills had also been held at primary and middle schools, according to teachers and students.

"Many students thought the drills were funny and did not take them seriously. But we knew we needed to get the knowledge across to them, just in case," said Yang Xiaojun, a teacher at Lushan Junior Middle School.

Yang said the school organized at least one earthquake drill every year.

Zhou Min, a junior student at Lushan Middle School, said the regular drills proved invaluable in Saturday's quake.

"We were told the moments just after an earthquake struck are the most dangerous ones and that we should keep low and protect our heads from falling objects," she said. "Only after the initial moments could we flee the building."

Zhou said she was in class when the quake happened and she and all her classmates were evacuated safely from the building. There were no casualties at the school and the building did not fall. "The teachers were the last to leave the building," she said.

Meanwhile, the frequent earthquakes have changed the way in which buildings are constructed.

Previously, they were made from wood and bricks, with the wooden structure usually in the upper part of a building.

"Since the 2008 quake, steel and concrete have been preferred when people build new homes," said Huang.

The concept was further reinforced after Saturday's quake, as most of the houses built from wood and bricks were wrecked, while those constructed from steel and concrete remained largely intact.

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China's Air Force starts first airdrop in quake zones 

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