BEIJING May 14 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 on Wednesday.
Monday's 7.9 magnitude tremor levelled factories, homes,
schools and hospitals across China's southwest Sichuan
province, killing nearly 15,000 people. The toll is expect to
rise since many thousands are still trapped under rubble.
"Enforcement costs money and local officials at many levels
are involved," Ashley Howlett, a partner with Jones Day, who
heads the Greater China construction practice, told Reuters in
"There is a lot of corruption," said Howlett, who is
involved with all aspects of the design and construction
process and has written a book on China's construction laws.
"China's building codes are very clear," he said. "If a
similar earthquake hit near Beijing I don't think you would see
this kind of damage."
His comments echo similar complaints aimed at China in the
wake of recent product safety and healthcare scares that
alarmed consumers around the world.
Chinese builders are often forced to use a series of local
subcontractors, a practice that leads to shortcuts and the use
of substandard materials as each contractor takes his share of
the project's budget, said Howlett.
"But such subcontracting is not allowed in China," he said.
The quake is the worst to hit China since 1976 when up to
300,000 died in the northeast city of Tangshan.
(Reporting by Kirby Chien; Editing by Nick Macfie)