Following the devastating Sichuan earthquake in May, in China a government-appointed panel has blame poor construction for the collapse of hundreds of schools. The 8-magnitude quake killed more than 80 000 people, including thousands of pupils, crushed when their classrooms crumbled.
Low building standards may have cost the lives of the children, suggested the panel of experts on Thursday.
Poor quality materials and inadequate support for large classrooms were likely reasons that led to more than 1,000 schools to collapse in the quake, said Ma Zongjin, chairman of the committee.
“In recent years, a lot of school buildings have been built in China and in this process of rapid development, some problems may exist”, said Mr Ma, a geologist, in Beijing.
“The structure of the school buildings may not be reasonable enough and the related construction materials may not be strong enough.”
The lack of reinforcement in large classrooms supported by columns that could withstand major earthquakes was a key problem, added Mr Ma.
Safe schools’ commitment
Questions concerning the quality of construction and compliance to building codes have also been raised by the 30 engineers and building experts who have been assigned to the disaster zone.
Although strict punishment has been vowed by the government, along with the probe, for bad constructions, no attempt has been made to hold anyone publicly accountable yet.
But with parents of dead children staging protests demanding investigations into why schools gave way when other buildings remained standing, the issue has become politically sensitive for the Chinese government.
As schools were the only buildings to fully collapse in many areas, experts say that a lack of government commitment to safe schools was China’s problem, as it is in many other parts of the world.
Despite saying that about 7 000 classrooms were destroyed, so far China has not released a tally of how many schoolchildren died in the quake, which was the country’s worst disaster in 30 years.