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China toughens school quake standards: state media

by Staff Writers
Shanghai (AFP) Dec 28, 2008
China has toughened construction standards for schools after the May earthquake in southwest China damaged nearly 14,000 schools and killed an untold number of students, state media reported Sunday.

The National People's Congress also passed ammendments calling for a national earthquake emergency rescue team and penalties for anyone who hides information about quake damage, the Southern Daily newspaper reported.

The revisions are a response to the 8.0-magnitude earthquake May 12 that left nearly 88,000 people dead or missing, injured 375,000 and made more than five million homeless.

The new laws passed late Saturday require that all schools meet higher quake-proof standards than other buildings in the same area, the newspaper reported. Existing schools will need to be renovated and reinforced.

Nearly 14,000 schools in the Sichuan province were damaged in the quake and no official numbers have been released of how many students were killed, the Xinhua news agency reported.

About 7,000 schools collapsed entirely, often as nearby buildings stood firm, and relatives of the dead children initially spoke out loudly against the graft they believed led to shoddy construction of the schools.

Local residents said that police intimidation and cash payments largely quelled their protests.

The new laws, which take effect May 1, 2009, also require schools to teach students earthquake safety procedures, Xinhua said.

The revisions encourage individuals or organisations to alert authorities of possible quakes or unusual phenomena, but stress only the government is permitted to release earthquake forecasts to the public, Xinhua said.

The reports did not give details of the penalties for those who break the laws.

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