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Poor construction worsens scale of Indian quake

SHODDY DESIGN and poor construction is being blamed for the vast scale of devastation across India's Gujarat state after last weekend's earthquake.

India's ministry of public works announced an urgent review of design codes this week after Bhuj, the town at the quake's epicentre was reported to have no building left intact after the quake that measured 7.9 on the Richter scale.

'Within a 10km radius of Bhuj there is not a single building left standing, ' said Martin MacWan, head of local disaster relief organisation Janvikas .

In Gujarat's principal city Ahmedabad, nearly all domestic and commercial buildings over three storeys tall collapsed, reported Ajit Phadnis, head of Ahmedabad-based development agency Drop.

A 10 storey height limit on buildings in Ahmedabad - which are mainly reinforced concrete with brick infill - is imposed under the state's seismic design codes. But many structures affected by the earthquake predate the codes, introduced in the early 1990s. Developers have continued to erect domestic and commercial buildings which flout the codes. And qualities of workmanship and materials are often inadequate, said managing director of consultant Babtie's Ahmedabad office, Suren Vakiel.

Local engineers reported damage to infrastructure in the worst affected Kachchh region.

Work was under way to repair 10km of railway track at Bhuj.

Roads are passable, but suffered severe cracking, said Phadnis.

Holes measuring up to 2.5m by 6m have opened up on national highway four, linking Ahmedabad to Kandla. At least one bridge in the area will need to be closed for repair, but doing so immediately would severely hamper rescue and relief operations, MacWan said.

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