News / Asia

China Struggles to Expand Quake-proof Construction

An excavator moves debris to search for bodies of quake victims in Zhaotong, Ludian county, Yunnan province, China, August 5, 2014.
An excavator moves debris to search for bodies of quake victims in Zhaotong, Ludian county, Yunnan province, China, August 5, 2014.

The powerful earthquake that hit Southwest China earlier this month killed more than 600 people and flattened an estimated 22,500 homes. The tragedy has highlighted the difficulties China faces in extending safety standards for homes in remote areas of its countryside.

According to the China Earthquake Administration, most of the homes in the mountainous area of Yunnan, where the quake hit, were made of bricks, wood and mud walls.

They were too old and weak to resist an earthquake, the agency said in a statement.

As a result, the overwhelming majority of those killed in last week's 6.1 magnitude earthquake died under collapsed houses.

Long Enshen, a professor at the Sichuan University’s Institute of Disaster Management and Reconstruction, says a lack of resources is largely to blame.

“In recent years, previous earthquakes in Wenchuan or the one in Yan'an definitely had an impact on these areas and their awareness on anti-seismic construction has improved. But because of the economic conditions, many of the buildings [in rural areas] still lack in anti-seismic capacity,” says Long.

After a strong earthquake hit Wenchuan county in Sichuan province killing tens of thousands of people in 2008, China upgraded its anti-seismic standards and offered subsidies to residents of quake-prone areas to build sturdier homes.

But Chinese media have reported loopholes in the government's efforts.

In Yunnan, a local official told the Beijing-daily Xinjingbao that a provincial plan to renovate houses in the countryside had had little success in the six years since it was announced.

The official said that in Ludian county, where the quake hit last week, only 0.08 percent of homes had completed renovation.

Residents told the newspaper the subsidies they received were not enough to buy material, transport it to their village and pay a contractor's fees.

Edward Ng, a professor of architecture at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, has been working with local administrations in Sichuan to adopt different anti-seismic designs.

“With the amount of money that the government can subsidize you still have to find a way to design something that is cheap enough so that the subsidies will cover most of the cost, otherwise it still won't be able to be promoted on the market. You cannot design the kinds of earthquake houses that, for example, Japan is building for their domestic market,” he said.

In 2008, Ng helped rebuild a quake-hit village in Sichuan using local materials - including rubble from previously demolished homes.

The structures would withstand the quake's main shock, leaving residents a few hours to escape before the home collapsed.

Ng says local governments are open to these solutions.

“They can't solve the problem themselves, and the local villagers are crying out for help.”

The government has said it plans to extend anti-seismic standards to all buildings in China by 2020.

But analysts believe that while it is possible the government will be successful in cities, there are still enormous challenges for that goal to be realized in the countryside.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs