China's top legislature on Saturday adopted an amendment to the law on earthquake safety and disaster relief, which stipulates higher quake-proof construction standards for schools.
The revision was made seven months after the May 12 earthquake damaged nearly 14,000 schools in the Sichuan Province alone. There is no official number of how many students were killed.
The new legal regulation says all school structures must observe higher quake-proof standards than common buildings in the same area. For those already built, measures to strengthen the buildings must be added.
Schools are required to add training courses on earthquake response so as to improve safety awareness and students' capabilities of rescuing themselves and others. Previously, earthquake safety was not a required course in Chinese schools.
It will be up to local districts to figure out how and when to implement the new requirements. The amendment, which takes effect May 1, 2009, does not list specific details.
The quality of school structures, especially of those in China's less developed rural areas, has long been a concern to many people, including lawmakers. The deadly 8.0-magnitude earthquake highlighted the problem.
According to the Ministry of Education (MOE), 2.5 percent of China's primary and middle school buildings were in poor condition in 2007. More than 90 percent of those were located in the country's rural areas.
China had about 320,100 primary schools, 59,400 junior high schools and 31,255 senior high schools (including occupational schools) in 2007, according to the MOE.
Hospitals, shopping centers, hub of communications and other public facilities, which usually have dense crowds, should also observe higher quake-proof standards, according to the amendment.
The revised law also requires local governments to work out reconstruction plans after devastating earthquakes.
For example, on Sept. 23, the Chinese government issued its reconstruction plan for areas hit by the May 12 earthquake. That plan, which will cost 1 trillion yuan over three years, covers 51 counties, cities and prefectures in Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi provinces. It was open to public debate from Aug. 12 to Aug. 24.
The amended law says houses built after earthquakes must be kept away from dangerous areas, like fault and flood zones or places susceptible to landslides, mud-rock flows or road cave-ins.
Grassroot governments are obligated to teach villagers about earthquakes and to conduct drills to improve their safety awareness, according to the law.
The new regulations also encouraged individuals or organizations to alert earthquake administrations with precautionary reports of a possible quake or unusual phenomenon.
But the revised law also stressed neither individuals nor organizations, except government, could release earthquake forecasts to the public.
The amendment was adopted by members of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee with 155 votes and three abstentions.
The 8.0-magnitude quake centered in Sichuan's Wenchuan County left more than 69,000 people dead, 374,000 injured, 18,000 missing and millions homeless.