The New York Times opens an article in today’s paper [Experts Warned of Quake Risk in China] by saying Chinese scientists repeatedly warned the government about the possibility of an earthquake in Wenchuan where 87,000 people were killed last month. The government did little to prepare for one and the building codes remained below those usually set for earthquake zones (lower than in Beijing, for example).
This was a great human disaster but the CPC did not cause this quake. However, the free for all economic enrichment that has been going on in China may have caused corrupt local party elements to have authorized really substandard school construction which led to the deaths of thousands of children. The central government must really investigate this and I have no doubt that it will.
The last big quake in the area was in 1933. The Longmenshan belt, a major active fault zone, runs through the area. No one can predict when a quake will occur and Chinese scientists have been arguing for better safety measures for years. Even back in the 1950s, the Soviet Union was proposing stronger measures for earthquake safety in the region.
However, the Times reports, on a list recently put out to alert authorities of the most dangerous areas to watch out for, the Longmenshan belt was not included. The Chinese Earthquake Administration scientists seemed to have not pressed the government to take timely action.
Chinese seismologists are reported to have said even had the government enforced the building code they recommended for the area the quake that actually hit would have still been so strong (it was 8 on the Richter scale) that the damage may have been the same.
However there is one distressing attitude that some Chinese earthquake scientists expressed that is discouraging. The Times reports, “Many Chinese experts invoked the high cost of building structures to withstand major earthquakes as a rationale for the failure to do so.” These “experts” should go and tell this to the parents of the children killed by the quake.
One other thing is clear. The Chinese government responded to the disaster in an exemplary fashion and did not abandon the people, as did the Bush administration after hurricane Katrina.