Washington, June 18 : Scientists have suggested that rebuilding should be banned along the tectonic faults that caused the massive May 12 earthquake in China's Sichuan province.
According to a report in National Geographic News, fissures that cut through the Earth's crust where the Sichuan Basin collides with the eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau could still give rise to a future seismic shock.
"These faults remain active," said Mike Ellis of the British Geological Survey, who co-authored the 2007 study that had pinpointed China's Sichuan Province as a seismic hazard, 10 months before the quake hit.
"There should be a no-building zone that envelopes the length of the active faults," Ellis told National Geographic News.
"Schools and hospitals should not be built within a critical distance of the faults, nor should any high-density population building be placed in a landslide hazard zone," he added.
According to Alex Densmore of the Institute of Hazard and Risk Research at Durham University, who also co-authored the 2007 study, agreed that a "buffer zone" should border these faults, which stretch for about 150 miles (250 kilometers).
"If you put a building across a fault, it is literally going to be split in half," said Ellis.
In China, countless homes and schools constructed of unreinforced brick or concrete crumbled like sand castles during the quake, which killed about 70,000 people.
"Higher building standards and a buffer zone along the faults could help cut the number of deaths during an earthquake by one or two orders of magnitude," said Densmore. "Instead of tens of thousands of people dying, maybe thousands or hundreds will die," he added.
"China's Ministry of Construction is now carrying out a massive investigation into the public buildings that collapsed during the Sichuan earthquake and is drafting measures to prevent any more disasters in the future," said Jiang Jun, founder of the architecture magazine Urban China.
The government is expected to pass stricter laws on earthquake-resistant construction, approve a corps of independent engineers to inspect buildings nationwide, and begin retrofitting unsafe schools across China, he added.