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

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Who Are US Allies in Fight Against Islamic State?

    There is little but opportunism keeping coalition together analysts warn — SDFs Arab militias are not united even among themselves, frequently squabble and don’t share Kurds' vision for post-Assad Syria

    Learning Foreign Language Helps US Soldiers Bridge Culture Gap

    Effective interaction with local populations part of everyday curriculum at Monterey, California, Defense Language Institute

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora