Post-quake welfare houses, a second disaster

Updated: 2010-12-17 21:08

By Zuo Likun (

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Post-quake welfare houses, a second disaster 

An earthquake survivor shows a quality report in the flooded house in Yao'an, Yunnan province, Dec 9, 2010. [Photo/Xinhua]

Nearly seventeen months after a powerful earthquake leveled the Yao'an county in Southwest China's Yunnan province, Gao Xuefu still quiver at his new home, not at all for fear of the long-gone aftershocks. What concern him are the widening cracks creeping everywhere from floor to ceiling on his welfare house.

"Look at my house, what an awful lots of cracks," Gao complained to a Xinhua reporter about the building that he had moved in right before the all-important Spring Festival early this year.

In all, there have been 350 families resettled at the government-planned welfare houses at Gao's village and another nearby, for which each household paid 70,000 yuan ($10,514) to foot the 100,000 yuan construction bill.

At first blush, it seemed like a windfall boon for Gao, since residents at other villages in Yao'an had all but to build the houses themselves. But soon Gao found that the handed-out 350 houses at their villages are problematic, if not disastrous.

According to a quality report submitted to local government in September, cracks are rifle on the two villages' buildings that water could easily leak into the floor below. Some of the outer walls are not upright enough and the interior plaster just puckers up like burst blisters.

More appalling, residents at the ground floor found their homes are gradually sinking, apparently due to slack foundation. The ceilings are no better. Small changes indicate they keep subsiding in the center, making the upper floor virtually a giant flat bowl that, at least at one villager's home, it could hold a puddle one centimeter deep.

The project was so poor that while in the making, five houses had to be pulled down clumsily and rebuilt. Then half a year after villagers' moving in, another six were bulldozed to build them all over again.

 Post-quake welfare houses, a second disaster

A man clears the crack on the floor at his house in Yao'an, Yunnan province, Dec 9, 2010. [Photo/Xinhua] 

Post-quake welfare houses, a second disaster 

Local farmers build kitchens and washing rooms near their welfare houses built after an earthquake in Yao'an, Yunnan province, Dec 9, 2010. [Photo/Xinhua]



Besides its porous quality, the resettlement's design is anything but practical. For each of the 350 houses, there is no kitchen, not even a washing room. Villagers have to cook outside in open air and the few public toilets, whose stinking foul can be smelled afar, are a total mess since there is no one cleaning them.

For the whole shabby project, Yao'an county's deputy chief Wang Jiajun said there was the problem of hastened construction schedule. The project's contractor Xindian Construction Company, which is from the neighboring Mouding county not far from Yao'an, needed to build all the 350 houses in three months, nearly half of that duration in winter. Molds used to fix the structure were hastily removed before the concrete could solidify. Chaotic site management meant that inferior building materials could find a way to sneak in.

After the September quality report, Xindian construction company had been ordered to repair all the loopholes before December. What the company accomplished was just another brushing over, as if whitewashing could suffice. Even such a lick and a promise failed to reach 30 households. Soon, the company was gone, completely moving out of Yao'an.

Villagers said if they were allowed to build by themselves, it couldn't be so disastrous. "Before it's done, no one knows who will live in which house, how could we keep an eye on them?" one said to Xinhua.

"The Spring Festival is coming soon, but when could we have a peaceful new year?"


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