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Northern region still safe for quake-proof structures

DESPITE some seismic threats, the whole of the North remains safe for housing and business but only on condition that all structures are made quake-proof, experts said yesterday.

The experts emphasised the need for architectural buildings in the North to undergo renovation for quakeproof features in the wake of the 6.3-magnitude trembler that rattled several provinces on Monday evening.

Experts also found that the damage was much less than in other countries shaken by a similar shock, according to the preliminary results of an inspection conducted by the Engineering Institute of Thailand.

A team from the institute visited tambon Sai Khao in Chiang Rai's Phan district, the epicentre, from Wednesday to yesterday, and found that many damaged buildings could be repaired.

However, some such as Phanpittayakhom School's main building, had almost caved in as its framework had come apart.

"The damaged main building of Phanpittayakhom School must be reconstructed as it would be dangerous for everyone," said Assoc Professor Penneung Warnitchai, an earthquake expert at the Asian Institute of Technology.

The massive quake was the biggest recorded in Thailand.

According to the Internal Security Operations Command's provincial branch, the disaster has affected 54,542 people, ruined 12 houses and partially damaged 8,371 others in Chiang Rai.

Up to 63 temples, 31 government offices, four bridges, five roads, one community building, one hotel, two electricity systems and a waterworks system had suffered damage.

Penneung said that if damage was found in the main structures of buildings such as columns, the buildings must be demolished and rebuilt. If damage or cracks were found on the walls of buildings, the buildings could be repaired.

People should ask engineers or experts to check their house before repairing it.

Even though tambon Sai Khao was located right above the strong quake, the damage to buildings could be blamed on several factors, such as improper construction techniques.

For an expert like Penneung, this occurrence has provided a lot of useful information for designing buildings that can resist the quakes.

Thonglek Khamma, 67, a villager from Ban Hauy San Yao in Chiang Rai's Mae Lao subdistrict, has to live outside his house with his wife.

He cannot stay or even sleep inside his home because the walls had cracked and large pieces had fallen down. More than that, he was worried about aftershocks.

Even though he wants to rebuild his house, he does not have enough money.

"I only get Bt1,100 from the monthly allowance for the elderly and disabled people. Can you tell me how I can fix my house, which looks like a small cottage?" he said.




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