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Quake-proof constructions provide safer housing for villagers

By Li Yingqing and Hou Liqiang in Kunming | China Daily | Updated: 2017-05-19 07:23

Located on the Alpide seismic belt, which runs from the Himalayas to the Mediterranean Sea, Yunnan is an earthquake-prone province in southwestern China.

As a consequence, quakes of magnitude 4 and 5 are not unusual in Biyang county, about 370 kilometers northwest of Kunming, the provincial capital.

The frequent earthquakes often cracked the walls of many traditional houses, leaving the residents concerned for their lives and the integrity of their property.

Those fears have subsided as a result of the government's efforts to renovate dilapidated houses.

On March 27, the county was hit by a magnitude 5.1 quake, which had a focal depth of 12 km. It was the third quake greater than magnitude 5 in the past five years.

"The previous two caused widespread damage and injury, but this time only one person in our township was injured, by a falling tile," said Yang Jiawei, deputy Party chief of Yangjiang township.

Wang Qingbing from Momianchang, a village in Yangjiang, was working on his farm when the quake hit.

He said he wasn't worried, even though his parents, wife and son were all at home, because the family recently moved into their renovated house, which is designed to withstand all but the worst quakes. In March 2013, a quake left big cracks in three of the walls of his old house.

"Because of safety concerns, the government didn't allow us to move back into the house until 2014, when it had been rebuilt," he said, "The renovated house is very strong, and wasn't damaged at all in the latest earthquake."

The renovated two-story house cost more than 300,000 yuan ($43,500). The local government provided 50,000 yuan toward the cost and also offered a concessional loan of 50,000 yuan.

"With this house, I'm not worried about minor earthquakes anymore," Wang said.

Yang, the deputy Party chief, said most of the dilapidated houses in Yangjiang have been rebuilt or renovated in recent years after the provincial government promoted the upgrading of old houses and earthquake-proof construction: "No houses collapsed this time, though the walls of a few cracked."

From 2007 to 2015, about 89 million yuan was invested in the county to rebuild the homes of 7,925 families, while almost 20 million yuan was spend on renovation of a further 9,988 homes, according to the Biyang government.

Last year, poverty-stricken families were given priority when the county government rebuilt the houses of 2,500 families, and renovated another 2,000. The government also provided concessional loans of 10.6 million yuan to 217 families so they could renovate their homes.

According to the provincial housing authorities, nearly 2 million families have seen their homes rebuilt or reinforced with quake-proof materials.

Since the program began in 2007, none of the "new" houses have collapsed or suffered severe damage, despite two major quakes in 2014: a magnitude 6.5 earthquake in Ludian county and a magnitude 6.6 quake in Jinggu county.

No homes have been damaged in a series of quakes this year, the government said.

Xinhua contributed to the story.

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