Quality of 'Macau-built' structures in Yaan under scrutiny

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 April, 2013, 1:10pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 April, 2013, 2:48pm

A Sichuan school rebuilt after the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake with funding from the Macau government has sparked quality concerns after tremors from Saturday’s Yaan earthquake inflicted “serious damage” on it.

Large cracks were seen on the exterior of the Lingguan Secondary School in Sichuan province’s Baoxing county, near the epicentre of the magnitude -7.0 earthquake that struck the region on Saturday morning which killed at least 192 people.

Damage to the school’s interior from the 20-second quake was worse - with door frames “deformed” and large holes appearing in classroom walls.

The campus of the Ling Guan Secondary School was built five years ago after the original school building - built in 1958 - collapsed from the deadly 8.0 earthquake in May 2008, news portal reported on Monday.

Construction of the building was funded by the Macau government as shown on a sign hanging outside the school.

While netizens were quick to question Macau’s reconstruction efforts, many internet users stressed the structural resilience of the Lushan County’s People’s Hospital - also built by Macau. A photo of the building surfacing on weibo showed, other than a few broken windows, a relatively unscathed building despite being at the epicentre of the quake.

“Hit by the 7.0 earthquake, the Lusha County People’s Hospital did not even sway. Who says our buildings are built with tofu bricks? But after a closer look, it turns out tht construction of the hospital was built with help from Macau,” said one microblogger on Sina Weibo.

Scandals erupted in the aftermath of the 2008 earthquake, after shoddily-built school buildings - later named “tofu schools” - were widely blamed for the disproportionately high death toll of children.

At least 5,300 students died after 7,444 tofu schools collapsed or were badly damaged from the magnitude-8.0 Sichuan quake that struck Wenchuan in 2008, which was just 85km from Yaan. More than 1,000 students in a Beichuan city school were killed after the building they were in crumbled within seconds.

Despite being located in an earthquake-prone region - the 2013 earthquake occurred on the same Longmnshan fault as the 2008 one - few buildings in rural areas like Lushan have been built with earthquake-resistant design.

In a 2009 research paper, Xiong Xiong, a researcher with the Institute of Geodesy and Geophysics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Wuhan, Hubei, said the 2008 earthquake, which occurred on the northeastern part of the Longmenshan fault, had significantly increased the "geophysical stress" on the area which was hit by Saturday's earthquake.

"This event could have been triggered by the last one," he said. "We are racing against the clock to calculate whether this earthquake has increased the stress in another area."