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Buildings in Indonesia earthquake zone 'substandard' says expert

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THE EARTHQUAKE that hit Indonesia last week must serve as a wake up call to the country's government to improve and enforce building standards, an expert has insisted.

A lack of building standards allows the public to build freely without any consideration of structural performance in a disaster, said Arup associate and chair of the Society for Civil Engineering Earthquake Design, Ziggy Lubowski.

The earthquake, with a magnitude of 6.3, shook Yogyakarta, a large town on the island of Java, at 10.54pm GMT last Friday. It killed more than 5,000 people, injured more than 20,000 and displaced around 200,000.

Lubowski recently completed a study into the rebuild of Banda Aceh, an area of Indonesia devastated by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.

He commented on the similar design and construction of the buildings in the two areas, which are some 2,000km apart.

'Java has a similar building stock to Banda Aceh and much of Indonesia: a mixture of timber houses, masonry houses and reinforced concrete with masonry inll, ' he said.

'The seismic building code - last published in 2003 - excluded residential dwellings purely to allow people to build their own houses, but means a lot of the contracting work is very substandard.' Bobby Lambert, chief executive of engineering disaster relief charity RedR-IHE, said the emphasis in Java now will be on shelter, water and sanitation.

RedR is keeping people on standby but has not yet been called upon to help. Charities say that the region is well equipped to deal with a disaster on this level.

The charity is meanwhile continuing its work in Pakistan and Banda Aceh.

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