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Quake-proof home construction urged

An official with a provincial seismological bureau has called for accelerating the construction of quake-proof housing in Gansu Province, where an earthquake has killed at least 94 people.

Most of the collapsed houses were adobe rooms that could not withstand a strong earthquake, said Wang Lanmin, head of the Gansu seismological bureau, on Tuesday.

The adobe houses built on the loess and stone hills were the worst-hit, according to accounts by Xinhua correspondents arriving at the quake zones.

On the other hand, houses that were built or rebuilt after a massive landslide on May 10, 2012, which left 57 people dead and 15 missing in Minxian County, suffered minor damage in Monday's earthquake, according to Wang.

"All the adobe houses (at my village) collapsed," said Zhu Wenqing, a villager at Majiagou in the town of Meichuan.

Zhu's eight-room adobe house swayed but did not collapse when the 6.6-magnitude earthquake hit on Monday morning. Frequent aftershocks, however, turned his home into a pile of rubble.

"Houses with the brick-and-wood structure behaved much better," said Zhu.

An initial investigation showed that the quake caused the collapses of 51,800 houses and severely damaged 240,000 others, according to the latest statistics of local authorities.

China has been working on a quake-proof rural housing construction project since 2006, which has benefited more than 2 million households so far. In 2009, the Gansu provincial government proposed building 2 million such houses within five years.

With a scattered rural population of more than 20 million, there are still a large number of rural houses that have yet to be renovated, Wang said.

However, the centuries-old tradition of building adobe houses in the province has hindered the progress of the project.

Wang has called for the government to increase investment for rural housing renovation projects and improve rural residents' ability to handle earthquakes.

"A series of policies, including increasing subsidies and credit support for rural housing construction, should be introduced to encourage rural residents to improve their sense of coping with earthquakes," said Wang.

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