China Vows Safer Schools in Earthquake-Prone Areas

By Henry Sanderson | July 7, 2008

China has issued safety guidelines for new schools to be built in areas hit by a devastating earthquake amid widespread anger over poorly constructed schools that collapsed during the May temblor, killing many children.

The Education Ministry issued the guidelines to “meticulously and carefully” carry out reconstruction of schools in earthquake-affected areas, a notice on its Web site said.

In general, the Chinese government has been praised for its reaction to the earthquake, which killed nearly 70,000 people, mostly in Sichuan province. But grieving parents have angrily accused local governments of having allowed shoddy school construction.

The guidelines said every school in earthquake-affected areas must be assessed, and those considered potentially dangerous must be demolished.

“When going through rebuilding, every school in the affected areas should be made to be the firmest and safest, so as to not worry parents and the public,” the ministry said.

Most schools and kindergartens in affected areas should resume classes in permanent buildings by September 2009, and all should be restored by a year later, it said.

The Education Ministry is working with the Construction Ministry and other relevant departments to establish earthquake-resistant building standards, it said.

Parents have protested at numerous schools in Sichuan, calling for explanations of why schools collapsed so easily while nearby buildings were still standing after the magnitude 7.9 quake.

Chen Baosheng, a professor of Tongji University, who studies disaster prevention in buildings, said previous construction standards in earthquake-hit areas had not been followed very well.

“Now they must be followed and the new buildings must be built up to standards,” he said. “It’s not difficult to follow these standards and I think people will follow them.”

Investigations of school design and construction will be carried out, the Education Ministry said. The best school building plans will be promoted to ensure standardization, it said.

Schools should not be built in areas at threat from floods, landslides and other natural dangers, it said.

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