Lack of funds, knowledge hampering construction of quake-resistant buildings

Lack of funds, knowledge hampering construction of quake-resistant buildings

With low compensation from the government and a lack of engineers with the knowledge to build earthquake-resistant buildings, residents of Moo 7 Dong Mada in Chiang Rai's Mae Lao district are still at a risk after they were hit by a 6.3-magnitude quake on May 5 last year.

A visit to the village yesterday showed that repair and rebuilding work in the village had progressed to almost 90 per cent. There were only a few marks left to indicate last year's earthquake, which had caused severe damage.

Srijan Jareunkarn, whose home had to be completely rebuilt, said, "The cost of rebuilding my home was Bt1.3 million, but I only got a total of Bt53,000 in compensation from Tambon Dong Mada Municipality and donations."

She added that she had to borrow the rest of the money from a local cooperative, because she only earned a living selling food. Though her new house was built using the same blueprint as the destroyed house, it has a stronger, reinforced foundation, she said.

Village headman Sanong Wannaraj said the government aid was granted as per the municipality committee's recommendations.

"The municipality engineering teams surveyed damages in each house and passed the information on to the committee. The compensation was based on the destruction done to the house, which ranged from a few hundred to several thousand in case a house had to be rebuild," he said.

Sanong said he had received Bt500 for broken windows but decided not to replace them because he was worried the earthquake may occur again.

"Many people in my village still fear the earthquake. Almost all 281 houses in the village suffered damage, 173 houses were damaged severely, while seven were reduced to ruins," he said.

"Nearly every household in the village was compensated."

However, the scarcity funds are hampering efforts to build earthquake-proof houses as they cost more.

"The budget problem caused villagers to build or repair their houses based on what they could afford. Constructing a house that can withstand an earthquake is out of reach for most villagers," Dr Paiboon Panyakapo, a design expert on quake-proof buildings from Sripatum University, said.

Even though most of the houses have been repaired, Paiboon revealed that very few will be able to survive another earthquake because engineers and builders who do not have sufficient knowledge repaired them.

He explained that the earthquake damaged many houses because they had not been planned properly and if the rebuilding is done along the same standards, then the result of the next quake will be the same.

This confirms an earlier statement from Dr Pennung Warnitchai, a lecturer at Asia Institute of Technology, about the lack of experienced engineers.

He has advised that the subject of quake-resistant buildings should be added to the curriculum |for bachelor's degrees in engineering.

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