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Alarm due to lack of quake shelters

THE city's top legislators yesterday warned that Shanghai, home to nearly 19 million people, is making alarmingly slow progress in setting up earthquake and emergency shelters. They said an earthquake defense law now being drafted should include detailed plans that authorities must follow to set up emergency shelters.

Shanghai is running massive construction projects at high speed to expand its transport infrastructure in preparation for the 2010 World Expo, while commercial residential complexes are also being built across the city. But the progress of setting up large public shelters to help in the event of natural disasters and other major crises is lagging behind, said legislators.

"Compared to Beijing, which has about 30 large public emergency shelters downtown, we only have one - and that one's unfinished," Ye Xin, a member of the Standing Committee of the Shanghai People's Congress, told a meeting of the committee held to discuss the new disaster defense law.

Shanghai's first and only professional earthquake and emergency shelter is being built on Dalian Road. The 20,000-square-meter shelter is designed to house 8,000 people during an earthquake and provide them with basic living necessities. Authorities announced the plan to build the shelter several years ago but the construction will not finish until the end of the year.

Several other top legislators urged detailed construction goals to be written into the new rules. The current draft only states that different government departments should coordinate to make plans to exploit suitable land and build large shelters. Public squares, green sites, parks and other open areas can be used for setting up shelters, the draft law says.

"We have had construction plans and intended locations for the shelters for a long time," said another Congress committee member, Yuan Wen. "But due to the lack of an efficient management mechanism to steer the process, the construction is going very slowly."

The draft also ruled local construction and housing authorities should carry out a citywide survey to appraise how earthquake-proof local buildings were and offer them guidance on reinforcement.

National law requires that all buildings in Shanghai are strong enough to resist a 7th degree intensity earthquake with 12th degree being the highest. Last year's 8.0-magnitude Wenchuan earthquake, which killed at least 69,000 people, reached 11 degrees of intensity at its height.


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