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Bam quake report calls for greater site supervision

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LACK OF proper construction supervision contributed to the massive death toll in the earthquake that rocked the Iranian city of Bam on New Year's Day, a new report published this week reveals.

The ancient city of Bam was hit by a slip-strike earthquake measuring 6.6 on the Richter scale, resulting in widespread devastation (NCE 8 January).

Halcrow senior structural analyst Ali Manafpour told NCE that buildings erected as recently as 2002 had failed due to low quality construction and corner cutting.

Manafpour's report was due to be presented to the Institution of Structural Engineers on Wednesday.

'Iran has modern earthquake codes and generally design is good, ' he said. Buildings are typically designed with cross bracing and ties.

'But construction is not often checked - there is no culture or history of supervision.' Many clients believe that supervision will add to the cost of construction, Manafpour said.

Buildings are also often put up by unskilled labour hired directly by the client, while designs are 'simplified' to make construction easier or to save cash, he claimed.

Most modern steel or concrete framed buildings in Bam failed because inadequate connections between foundations, walls and roof allowed differential movement.

Welds in steel structures were typically under strength and were ripped apart by the quake.

'The only buildings to survive with little or no damage were government-built - in other words those that had been properly checked by engineers during construction, ' he said.

Manafpour has held informal talks with Bam city authorities about tightening up construction regulations.

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