Don't Rebuild on China Quake Faults, Experts Warn

Kevin Holden Platt in Beijing
for National Geographic News
June 17, 2008

Rebuilding should be banned along the tectonic faults that caused the massive May 12 earthquake, two scientists say.

The researchers had pinpointed China's Sichuan Province as a seismic hazard in a study released in 2007, ten months before the quake hit.

Fissures that cut through the Earth's crust where the Sichuan Basin collides with the eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau could still give rise to a future seismic shock, according to Mike Ellis of the British Geological Survey.

"These faults remain active," said Ellis, co-author of the 2007 study that appeared in the journal Tectonics.

(Read more about plate tectonics.)

"There should be a no-building zone that envelopes the length of the active faults," Ellis told National Geographic News.

"Schools and hospitals should not be built within a critical distance of the faults, nor should any high-density population building be placed in a landslide hazard zone."

Buffer Zone

Alex Densmore of the Institute of Hazard and Risk Research at Durham University, who also co-authored the 2007 study, agreed that a buffer zone should border these faults, which stretch for about 150 miles (250 kilometers).

"If you put a building across a fault, it is literally going to be split in half," Ellis said.

The idea is not new: A buffer zone was created after the San Fernando earthquake in California in the 1970s, he said.

In China countless homes and schools constructed of unreinforced brick or concrete crumbled like sand castles during the quake, which killed about 70,000 people.

Continued on Next Page >>




NEWS FEEDS     After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.   After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.

Get our news delivered directly to your desktop—free.
How to Use XML or RSS

National Geographic Daily News To-Go

Listen to your favorite National Geographic news daily, anytime, anywhere from your mobile phone. No wires or syncing. Download Stitcher free today.
Click here to get 12 months of National Geographic Magazine for $15.