Canadian Consulting Engineer

Building practices and dams come under scrutiny after China earthquake

The death of at least 69,000 people, including 4,700 children and students after the earthquake in Sichuan province...

June 19, 2008   Canadian Consulting Engineer

The death of at least 69,000 people, including 4,700 children and students after the earthquake in Sichuan province, China, has led to questions over the construction safety of schools and the impact of large dams.
Parents and the media are said to be outraged by the fact that many school buildings collapsed on top of children during the May 12 earthquake, while other buildings nearby remained standing.
They charge that shortcuts during construction, corruption and weak inspection programs had resulted in school buildings not being built properly.
Reports in the Chinese press cited examples where a contractor had built a school with no experience and no supervision, then “found someone” to have it certified as safe. Another article said that reinforcing rods were only one-third of the required thickness.
In response to the criticisms, the Chinese government has said it will introduce a stiffer regime for overseeing construction of schools and public buildings, including tougher codes and better inspections.
Meanwhile, according to the Toronto Star, Chinese seismologists and government officials are investigating whether the quake may have been triggered by a large reservoir, the Zipingpu Reservoir, located five kilometres from the epicentre. The dam is 156 metres high and holds over a billion cubic metres of water. One engineer at the Geology and Mineral Bureau in Sichuan province thought that repeated raising and lowering of the water level “might be a triggering factor.”
World dam experts dismissed the idea that the massive Three Gorges dam had a connection to the catastrophe, given that it is 600 kilometres to the east of the epicentre.

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