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Yingxiu bounces back from 2008 tremblor

Updated: 2013-05-09 14:33
(China Daily)

The Wenchuan earthquake has a dual legacy in Yingxiu that has been set in concrete. The devastating 2008 temblor showed a disaster's ability to obliterate buildings and then a building's ability to withstand disaster. When it was rebuilt, Yingxiu became a national demonstration site for quakeresistant construction in Sichuan province.

The town's buildings were built to withstand magnitude-7 tremors before the Wenchuan quake, but the temblor that destroyed it measured 8.

Today's Yingxiu could withstand a magnitude-9 event, says Wang Jilun, an engineer for Wenchuan county's urban and rural housing construction bureau.

"The new techniques wouldn't have come to China if not for the Wenchuan quake," Wang says, adding that three new technologies were introduced.

First, pillars filled with rubber now stabilize large buildings. They bend during quakes and are used in bridges in Britain.

Second, massive hydraulic shock absorbers were installed in mostly horizontal slants in public buildings, such as the town's service center. This technology is used in Germany.

Third, brick buildings — especially homes — are built with cages of reinforced rods encased in concrete.

"Before, we used single bars rather than a grid, so brick houses were easily destroyed in the quake," Wang says.

Buildings are also now constructed with large steel columns, rather than wooden supports. "These won't collapse and it might save many lives."

"With this technology, we were able to rebuild Yingxiu on its original site, rather than relocate to a less geologically hazardous area," Wang says.

The part of town directly on the Longmen fault line, which was again responsible for the magnitude-7 Ya'an quake on April 20, has been turned into an open-air park. The flagpole of a primary school razed in the disaster still stands there.

More than 6,000 Yingxiu residents died in the quake. "If the Wenchuan earthquake were to happen today, rather than all of the buildings collapsing, none of them would," Wang says.

When the Ya'an quake hit, all of the buildings remained standing.

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