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Tougher regs to limit future Gujarat quake damage


NEW HOUSING in Gujarat state, India is to have a three storey height restriction to limit casualties in future earthquakes, local officials said this week.

'Soft storey' collapses which resulted from the failure of poorly reinforced concrete columns in multi-storey buildings increased the toll of last year's earthquake.

Final figures show that more than 13,000 people were killed and 167,000 injured after a quake measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale struck on 25 January (NCE 1 February 2001).

The height limit will form part of tougher building and town planning regulations for the state set to be passed as law in May.

An estimated 5,000 engineers in the region will be trained in seismic engineering techniques so they can implement the new regulations.

So far progress in rebuilding an estimated 1.2M homes in the worst damaged areas has been slow.

Latest Gujarat State Disaster Management Agency (GSDMA) figures show that in the district of Kutch, a target figure of 34,000 houses was set for the first year but only 16,000 have gone up.

Repair figures make better reading. Of 279,000 houses damaged in Kutch, 164,000 had been repaired by the end of the year towards a target figure of 182,000.

A lack of engineers and skilled labourers has plagued the reconstruction effort, said GSDMA chief executive V Thiruppugazh.

The GSDMA has since recruited 2,700 engineers to check structural drawings of new homes and retrofits.

Major Indian consultants Stup, Gherzi Eastern and National Council for Cement and Building Materials have been appointed to supervise and quality audit the glut of reconstruction works coming on stream.

In the longer term the GSDMA will up capacity to respond to disasters like cyclones, droughts, chemical and nuclear attacks as well as earthquakes.

Some 88 new accelerographs, measuring ground acceleration for early prediction of earthquakes, will also be installed.

Five emergency response centres costing £180M will be built in Ahmedebad, Surat, Rajkot, Bhuj and Baroda.

The GSDMA's long term disaster management plan is expected to be published next month. UK consultant Babtie and the Cranfield Institute of Disaster Management are providing technical assistance.

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