Were collapsed schools substandard?

Scott Tong May 14, 2008
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Were collapsed schools substandard?

Scott Tong May 14, 2008
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TEXT OF STORY

Renita Jablonski: A big question remains today in China as rescue teams continue to work in the areas worst-hit by Monday’s earthquake. People want to know why so many schools collapsed and whether it’s exposed a broader issue of substandard building quality. From Shanghai, Marketplace’s Scott Tong reports.


Scott Tong: A lot of parents in China are wondering if their children’s’ schools collapsed in part because of fly-by-night construction practices. Beijing has strict building codes, but the question is the implementation, says Will Hess of the forecasting firm Global Insight.

Will Hess: China has been in a hurry to build as fast as it can. So it’s not unthinkable that in some instances corners may have been cut.

The bad-case scenario is local officials get close to property developers, and one way or another, materials get skimped on and inspections get skipped. Engineers say schools are particularly vulnerable since they’re low-margin construction projects. And if rules get bent, Hess says exposing it is risky.

Hess: It’s been very dangerous to be a whistleblower, whether it’s railway safety, whether it’s building inspections, it’s not always a very hospitable environment.

It’s still an open question why the schools fell. But there’s widespread anger in China’s blogosphere directed at property developers and construction contractors.

In Shanghai, I’m Scott Tong for Marketplace.

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