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'Quake aftermath will bring years of mudslides'
2016/12/26 9:57:19

BEIJING - China is expected to experience more mudslides and landslides in the next decade as the devastating earthquake in Wenchuan of Sichuan province has increased the risks of more geological disasters, researchers have warned.

"Mudslides have become one of the major geological disasters caused by earthquakes. The volume of loosened solid materials like stones and sand in the massive Wenchuan earthquake in 2008 is estimated to be 3,000 cubic meters, increasing the risks of mudslides and landslides," said Cui Peng, researcher of the Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The loosened materials, coupled with certain weather factors, create ripe conditions for potential mudslides and landslides, he added.

"Given the situation, the active period for mudslides will last 15 years after the earthquake," Cui added.

Exact predictions of mudslides and landslides are still impossible as the reasons for geological disasters are too complicated, said Guang Fengjun, director of the department of geological environment with the Ministry of Land and Resources.

"The assessment and administration system for potential areas of geological disasters should be put on top of the country's disaster relief and prevention agenda," said Wu Shuren, a researcher with the Institute of Geomechanics under the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences.

Rain-triggered mudslides killed at least 18 people in Wenchuan and Qingchuan counties in Southwest China's Sichuan province, which is still recovering from the magnitude-8.0 Wenchuan earthquake on May 12, 2008.

As of Sunday, at least 1,447 people were confirmed dead and another 318 are still missing two weeks after mudslides triggered by torrents hit Zhouqu county, Gansu province, on Aug 8, north of Wenchuan, an area that was also hit by the devastating earthquake.

Officials have detected more than 200,000 potential areas for geological disasters, said Yin Yueping, a senior engineer with China Geological Survey under the Ministry of Land and Resources.

"But we still have a long way to go as extreme weather events are becoming frequent," he warned.

The country has recorded more than 26,000 geological disasters, ranging from landslides to ground erosion, in the first seven months of this year, nearly four times the number in the same period last year, the latest statistics from the Ministry of Land and Resources showed.

Wang Qian China Daily 2010-08-26

 Rebuilding should come after assessment

A group of senior geological experts on Wednesday cautioned against a hasty reconstruction of the mudslide-devastated Zhouqu county of Gansu province before adequate geological assessment is done.

The government should draw lessons from Sichuan, where much of the reconstruction rising from the 2008 earthquake ruins has recently been destroyed again in follow-up natural disasters, the experts said.

The southwestern province of Sichuan, still recovering from the massive magnitude-8.0 earthquake, has been struck by a spate of rainstorm-triggered mudslides since Aug 12. Much of Yingxiu, the epicenter of the Sichuan earthquake, will have to be rebuilt as a result of the mudslides.

Some of the reconstructed sites that experts had considered to be safe were submerged in the mudslides. The local government said about 540,000 people have been re-victimized and relocated.

"This should caution us against hasty reconstruction in Zhouqu. Geological assessments of disaster-prone areas should come as the top priority to avoid secondary disasters in the future," Lu Yaoru, academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering and professor from the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, said on the sidelines of a forum on urban geological environment in Shanghai.

"The government has been very quick in rebuilding the quake-ravaged areas in Sichuan, but obviously there are problems involved in either disaster control or prevention, which should serve as a warning to current government efforts in Zhouqu," he said.

Premier Wen Jiabao also stressed during his recent visit to Sichuan mudslide-hit regions that the quality of construction projects should override the speed of the reconstruction.

Zhouqu in Northwest China's Gansu province was seriously damaged by rain-triggered mudslides on Aug 8, which killed at least 1,447 people, with 318 still missing.

The Gansu provincial government said last Friday that the reconstruction plan for Zhouqu would be ready by early October, and that reconstruction would be completed in two years. No official announcement, however, has yet been made as to where the county seat would be rebuilt.

An inspection team led by the Chinese Academy of Sciences has been studying the geological conditions of the area to make detailed plans for its reconstruction.

But suggestions that the county seat should be rebuilt elsewhere to avoid future disasters has caused huge public debate. Many argue that the region, known for a history of geological hazards, is no longer suitable for housing communities.

Wang Sijing, another renowned academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said if the government decides to rebuild the county seat on the original site, locations with geographical disaster hazards should be avoided. Other disaster control efforts, such as plantation, are also necessary.

"But as a matter of fact, a place like Zhouqu is not suitable for large concentrations of human population due to its complex and fragile geological conditions," he added.

Wang Bingchen, former counselor of the State Council and also a geological expert, said the government has been too obsessed with speed in post-disaster reconstruction, and that he would not be surprised if problems arose in the planning.

He also said China should build on its disaster monitoring and forecast system.

"Although a natural disaster is difficult to predict, we can still constantly build on our capacity to prevent or minimize its losses," he said.

Qian Yanfeng  China Daily 2010-08-26

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