A lot of the news about the earthquake this week in China emphasized the tragedy of students trapped and dying in poorly built schools. Unfortunately, outrageously, perversely, school buildings around the world are potential earthquake death traps. Remember Pakistan, where 7000-plus schools killed 17,000 students?
On Thursday the New York Times published an article by Andrew Revkin on this global threat. Revkin writes:
Experts on earthquake dangers have warned for years that tens of millions of students in thousands of schools, from Asia to the Americas, face similar risks, yet programs to reinforce existing schools or require that new ones be built to extra-sturdy standards are inconsistent, slow and inadequately financed.
Revkin cited an OECD report that states "schools 'routinely collapsed in earthquakes around the world because of avoidable design or construction errors, or because existing laws and building codes were not enforced." That last bit was a polite way of saying "corruption" -- the allowance of poor design and pathetic construction in exchange for personal favors. Here in Turkey, construction contractors have a nasty habit of fleeing the country when their buildings kill people, so the system apparently works --for them.
The reports by Revkin reminded me again of the latest such tragedy we witnessed here in Turkey. Five years ago this month, an earthquake in the Southeast killed nearly 170 people. Half of those killed were public boarding school students in a single dormitory building (click here for the CNN report). More than 90% of the schools in the area were affected by that quake.
Revkin has also published a background story (click here) and links the Coalition for Global School Safety (COGSS). It's horrible to think about, I know, but is your children's school earthquake/ tornado/ disaster safe? How do you know? As the COGSS Turkey case study says,
It is better to be ten years too early than one day too late.
The photo was taken by Chen Jianli, Xinhua/Reuters, and is titled A rescuer held the hand of a trapped student at Wudu Primary School. (image link)