China has made huge strides in disaster risk reduction following the devastating Sichuan earthquake ten years ago, with citizens including school children more protected and prepared than ever, according to the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).
On 12 May 2008, a 7.9 magnitude quake hit Wenchuan county in the province, leaving nearly 90,000 dead or missing. Up to 10,000 children were killed when their schools collapsed, inciting public outrage at the flimsy construction of the school buildings.
Ten years later, however, China has seen improvement in strictly-enforced construction standards, school safety management manuals, checklists to regularly assess risk, and school drills to practice emergency preparedness plans, and is also embracing the latest technology to monitor hazards.
Following the earthquake, Chinese authorities invested in satellites to improve prediction capacities and early warning systems for disaster management and has also made commitments to limit economic losses from disasters to within 1.3% of GDP. Over the next five years, China will also spend more than CNY200mn (more than $31m) in seismological technology research.
Local governments carry out annual assessments on landslide, mudslide and flood risks during the flood season. School furnishings and equipment are also designed and installed to lessen the harm they might cause during an earthquake.
UNISDR Asia-Pacific Chief Loretta Hieber Girardet, who recently visited the National Disaster Management Centre, said, “Combined with strictly-enforced regulations, risk assessments and building codes, it’s clear that China has transformed its approach to disaster risk reduction – particularly for school children, who are among the most vulnerable when an earthquake strikes.”
China is the most earthquake-prone country in Asia. Over the past 50 years, the nation has experienced an average of three earthquakes per year which have resulted in a total of 380,000 deaths, averaging over 7,500 per year, with a total of 76m people affected. In the future, the average annual loss due to earthquakes in China is predicted to amount to $7bn.