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Tuesday, 30 January, 2001, 16:11 GMT
Quake highlights construction fears
Ahmedabad damage
Many of the collapsed blocks were recently built
India's devastating earthquake has raised questions about safety standards in the country, especially in its urban centres.

Concern is growing, in particular, at the rapid pace with which new high-rise constructions are taking place, often bypassing urban safety laws.

Observers point out that much of the damage in Gujarat is related to newly-constructed apartment buildings, many of them less than a decade old.

With scientists predicting more seismic activity in various parts of India, attention is shifting to the vulnerability of cities and towns across the country.

Laws ignored

With a population of over one billion people and still growing, land is fast becoming scarce in India.

Bombay skyline
Space constraints lead to high-rise buildings
For people living in big cities high-rise apartments have already become a reality, and the trend is fast catching up in smaller towns.

However, experts argue that despite a comprehensive construction code, little thought is given to making these structures quake resistant.

The capital, Delhi, itself lies in a seismically hazardous zone, but is said to be very vulnerable if faced with a natural disaster.

One of the major reasons for this is unplanned construction in Delhi and other Indian cities which ignore building codes.

The chairman of India's Housing and Development Corporation, V Suresh, says 80% of Indians build their own houses, without any help from qualified architects or engineers.

Equipped for disaster

City officials are now planning to enforce and even modify existing laws after the Gujarat catastrophe.

Newspaper reports say under the improved laws, builders, architects, engineers and even home owners could be punished if they violated safety codes.

Administrators are also buying new equipment to upgrade relief and rescue systems.

Gas cutters, gas masks and special disaster vans from Germany are being procured, the Times of India reports.

"These vans are multi-purpose and can operate in all types of disasters, including chemical disasters, building collapses, fires and even floods," Delhi Governor, Vijai Kapoor, was quoted as saying.

Disaster management experts also hope that the Gujarat disaster would spur administrators across India to implement the recommendation of a two-year-old report on making buildings quake-proof.

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29 Jan 01 | South Asia
Tragic lessons to be learnt
30 Jan 01 | Media reports
Press faults quake relief effort
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