Corruption contributes to quake damage

BEIJING - Corruption and lax enforcement of stringent building codes could be important factors behind many of the collapsed buildings in China's worst earthquake in decades, an expert said yesterday.

BEIJING - Corruption and lax enforcement of stringent building codes could be important factors behind many of the collapsed buildings in China's worst earthquake in decades, an expert said yesterday.

Monday's 7,9 magnitude tremor levelled factories, homes, schools and hospitals across China's southwest Sichuan province, killing nearly 15000 people. The toll is expected to rise because many thousands are still trapped under rubble.

"Enforcement costs money and local officials at many levels are involved," said Ashley Howlett, a partner with Jones Day, who heads the Greater China construction practice.

"There is a lot of corruption," said Howlett, who has written a book on China's construction laws.

"China's building codes are very clear. If a similar earthquake hit near Beijing I don't think you would see this kind of damage," he said.

His comments echo similar complaints aimed at China in the wake of recent product safety and healthcare scares that alarmed consumers around the world.

The earthquake is the worst to hit China since 1976. - Reuters

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