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Quake-proof construction urged after NW China quake


08:05, July 24, 2013

MINXIAN, Gansu, July 23 (Xinhua) -- An official from a provincial seismological bureau has called for accelerating the construction of quake-proof housing in northwest China's Gansu Province, where a recent earthquake has killed at least 94 people.

Most of the collapsed houses in Minxian County, which was hit hard by the quake, were earthen homes that could not withstand strong quakes, Wang Lanmin, head of the provincial seismological bureau, said Tuesday.

On the other hand, houses that were built or rebuilt after a massive landslide that occurred in Minxian on May 10, 2012 suffered only minor damage in Monday's earthquake, according to Wang.

"All the adobe houses (in my village) collapsed," said Zhu Wenqing, a resident of the village of Majiagou in Minxian's Meichuan Township.

Zhu's eight-room adobe house swayed but did not collapse when the 6.6-magnitude earthquake hit Monday morning. Frequent aftershocks, however, turned his home into a pile of rubble.

"Houses build out of brick and wood held up much better," Zhu said.

An initial investigation showed that the quake caused the collapses of 51,800 houses and severely damaged 240,000 others, according to statistics from local authorities.

More than 360 schools collapsed or were damaged, which may postpone the

fall semester for about 16,100 students, according to Dan Zhita, deputy director of the provincial education department.

Authorities have worked to tear down potentially dangerous schools in order to avoid secondary disasters, Dan said, adding that efforts are being made to set up temporary classrooms so that all students can attend school as scheduled.

China has been working on a quake-proof rural housing construction project since 2006 that has benefited more than 2 million households so far. In 2009, the Gansu provincial government proposed building 2 million quake-proof houses within five years.

A related school renovation project has been under way since 2009, one year after a devastating earthquake hit Wenchuan County in southwest China's Sichuan Province. The quake destroyed numerous schools in the area.

Authorities have spent 228 billion yuan (36 billion U.S. dollars) to rebuild and reinforce schools nationwide, according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Education in March 2012.

Wang said there are many rural homes that have yet to be quake-proofed, as the size and distribution of the region's population has made it difficult to do so.

Wang has called for the government to increase investment for rural housing renovation projects and improve rural residents' ability to handle earthquakes.

"A series of policies, including increasing subsidies and credit support for rural housing construction, should be introduced in order to help rural residents improve their ability to cope with earthquakes," Wang said.

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