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China Quake 1st Anniversary

Posted by feww on May 12, 2009

Incensed parents burn incense in memory of their dead children on the 1st Anniversary of China Quake


Tens of thousands of people mourn their relatives in the ruins of earthquake-hit Beichuan county, Sichuan Province, May 12, 2009.  REUTERS/Jason Lee. Image may be subject to copyright.

Wenchuan Earthquake Museum

Wenchuan Earthquake Museum has become the official shrine to the earthquake: “From the famous pig that survived under rubble for 36 days, to a water bottle used by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao as he toured devastated buildings and schools,” a year ago.

On display are anything from crushed cars to  smashed toys and abandoned school backpacks— legacies of the magnitude-7.9 earthquake that, a year ago today, killed as many as 90,000 people in China’s southwestern Schichuan province. What is missing however, samples of sub-standard still and building materials that accelerated the collapse of  so many schools in the province, killing thousands of children and infuriating parents who still blame shoddy government construction practices.

May 12 was a day of mourning. Mourners crowded ruins in southwest China on Tuesday to mark one year since an earthquake shattered the region, while President Hu Jintao called reconstruction efforts a testament to national strength.

China Quake One Year
In this photo taken on April 5, 2009, Zhou Lekang 43, holds a picture of his son Zhou Jingbo who was 16 when he was killed after his middle school collapsed in the May 12, 2008 earthquake in Dujiangyan, China. The death of so many children has touched a nerve nationwide, raising questions about official corruption, mismanagement, government responsibility _ the underside of fast-paced economic growth. The political sensitivity of the issue has spawned many instances of government attempts to intimidate the parents and activists fighting to get the truth out. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Dalziel). Image may be subject to copyright.

Many of the parents whose kids were killed when their  classrooms collapsed,  blame the inordinately large number of young casualties on the poor construction standards.

“For some survivors, the anniversary also drew bitter words about the government’s reluctance to openly investigate buildings that collapsed in the quake, especially schools that fell while nearby offices and apartments stayed intact.” Reuters said.

You don’t have to be an expert to compare the two types of building.

“Officials prevented any memorial gathering on the morning of the anniversary at Juyuan, a town where hundreds of children died in the local middle school, three parents told Reuters by phone.”

The  founder of Wenchuan Earthquake Museum, Mr Fan, said he was satisfied with the government’s response to the tragedy, and believe any investigation into the affair concerning the corruption would hurt the nation’s stability.

“We must leave problems like this for history to resolve,” Fan says.

“He Xiaogang, an engineering expert from Tsinghua University who was on a team of government investigators that visited quake sites, said the sheer power of the earthquake is to blame for the number of flattened schools.” AP reported

“We went to tens of thousands of schools, and almost all of them were up to national standards,” He said.

However, US experts who visited the quake site in August 2008 found that many of the school buildings had been unreinforced structures, the type that  had been outlawed in 1976 after a powerful  earthquake struck near Beijing.

“As would be expected, this type of building did not perform well in the earthquake, and there were many catastrophic collapses,” said the experts from the California based Earthquake Engineering Research Institute and the Geo-Engineering Earthquake Reconnaissance Association in their report.

“The cement was of a low grade. The steel reinforcements were not only thin, but also appeared to have been bought from scrap markets,” said a parent who lost his 16-year-old son in the quake.

Unsurprisingly, the party official have “clamped down on information about the school-related deaths,” and one year on, they haven’t released the schools’ death toll. “Parents or activists who have sought information have been intimidated or detained.” AP said.

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