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Sichuan to Monitor Seismic Activity

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The southwestern province of Sichuan, where a massive earthquake killed nearly 90,000 people in 2008, will establish a seismic monitoring network for all quake-prone areas by 2020, local authorities said.

The Sichuan provincial government issued a circular on its official website on Tuesday, proposing 29 measures to reduce the scale of disaster posed by an imminent earthquake, including a system for monitoring seismic activity and an early warning system.

The circular said a system will be set up by 2015 for reporting the intensity of seismic activity in the province, enabling a report to be issued 20 minutes after an earthquake.

The system will be capable of monitoring earthquakes measuring 1.5 in magnitude and above in high-risk areas and 2.0-magnitude quakes in other areas of the province.

All significant buildings without the capacity to resist earthquakes are to be reinforced or reconstructed, according to the circular.

Local authorities have been ordered to submit their amendments to the earthquake emergency response plan before 2011. They are also required to form at least one team that is capable of providing disaster relief to people in their jurisdiction within 24 hours of a quake.

Another 50 stations are to be set up across the province for predicting earthquakes, along with 50 stations for monitoring the intensity of seismic activity, the circular said.

On May 12, 2008, Wenchuan of Sichuan suffered an 8.0-magnitude earthquake, which left more than 87,000 people dead or missing and more than 374,640 injured.

The massive earthquake sounded the alarm for authorities to improve the country's ability to monitor seismic activity and predict earthquakes.

The State Council issued a notice in September on further improving systems already in place across the country.

It asked local governments to install a comprehensive quake warning system on land and at sea, as well as to improve the capacity of buildings to resist quakes of an average intensity by 2020.

The notice said governments in quake zones should have search-and-rescue teams on the site within two hours of a major tremor.

Pilot projects designed to be able to predict earthquakes are to be stepped up in seismic belts across the country and a special quake monitoring system will be set up around important areas like large reservoirs, oil fields and railways, the notice said.

Local governments were also instructed to supervise the construction of public buildings, such as schools and hospitals, so that power supplies and communication facilities can be maintained when a disaster occurs.

In response to the notice, a number of provinces, such as Jilin, Hebei and Shaanxi, have drawn up plans to monitor seismic activity and reduce the scale of disaster in the event of a quake.

But it is "shortsighted to expand the construction of earthquake observation stations", Sun Shihong, a researcher at the China Earthquake Networks Center, told China Daily on Wednesday.

Sun said the country's current top priority should be to develop technology capable of monitoring seismic activity and predicting earthquakes.

"If we do not have advanced technology for earthquake observation and monitoring, the expansion of quake monitoring and observation stations is just a waste of time and money," Sun said.

(China Daily November 4, 2010)

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