An accident waiting to happen

Updated: 2014-04-17 08:15

By Yan Yiqi (China Daily)

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An accident waiting to happen

Cracks are clearly visible in the walls of Haining Experimental Elementary School in Zhejiang province. Xu Yunfeng / For China Daily 

'Check and fix'

He suggested that every city in the country should conduct compulsory and thorough checks on all buildings erected in the 1980s and '90s. "These checks should not be a one-time response to the collapse in Fenghua. Local governments should ensure they are part of a regular process," he said.

On April 11, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development announced that a nationwide "check and fix" program for older buildings would begin immediately. While he welcomed the announcement, Zhejiang University's Yang said that in addition to the safety checks and quality evaluations, the government should implement a rapid-response program for buildings reported as being unsafe.

"I daresay there are a large number of dangerous buildings in the country that are still occupied. It's the government's duty to ensure they are safe," he said. "It was relatively lucky that the Fenghua building collapsed on a weekday morning when many residents were out - what if it had collapsed at midnight?"

Shanghai has already made moves to address the problem. Last year, the municipal government refurbished 1.94 million sq m of old apartment complexes and plans to raise that number to 50 million sq meters by 2015.

Wu Zhengqun, an architect at Zhejiang Zhongshe Engineering Design Co, said the Fenghua accident should ring alarm bells throughout the construction industry, including developers, builders and architects.

"Irresponsible individuals are ruining the industry's reputation. I think there should be a national system to trace responsibility for every building when quality problems occur," he said.

For most of the 40 families affected by the Fenghua collapse, it's only a matter of time until the government awards them compensation and a new apartment, which will enable them to get their disrupted lives back on track.

For Shen Dailu, her grandmother and many others, however, the moves have come far too late.

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