Haitian buildings to be reinforced against quakes

NEW YORK, United States, Wednesday March 30, 2011 – Haitian schools, hospitals and other buildings are to be strengthened under a United Nations-backed plan to reduce vulnerability to seismic threats in a country that was devastated 14 months ago by a massive earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people and made 1.3 million homeless.

The plan, launched by the Government and the United Nations UN Development Programme (UNDP), aims to reduce impacts in earthquake-prone areas by improving resilience of infrastructure and reducing risks for Haitians in poor housing.

“There are crucial decisions to be made by people,” UNDP seismologist, Eric Calais said yesterday. “If people have to choose between buying better quality construction material which is earthquake resilient, or building an extra room with the same cost, of course they should choose the first.”

Under the plan, earthquake prevention planning will be conducted in consultations with mayors and community associations. Schools, hospitals and other public buildings will be assessed first on how to strengthen their structure.

UNDP and local governments will train Haitian architects, engineers and masons in construction techniques for earthquake-resistant structures. They will also initiate awareness programmes to inform Haitians of necessary actions that could minimize the impact of seismic threats on their lives.

The plan was recently approved by the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission, a panel composed of Haitian Government officials, the UN, former United States President Bill Clinton who is UN Special Envoy for Haiti, and other international partners.

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