Xinjiang building millions of houses able to resist quakes

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The newly built earthquake-resistant houses in rural areas of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region have withstood more than 30 earthquakes of magnitude 5 or above in the past seven years, the region's housing authorities said.

Villager Sailater and her husband talk on the ruins of their old house in Jinghe county, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, on Aug 16, 2017. The house was destroyed during a magnitude-6.6 earthquake on Aug 9. [Photo/Xinhua]

As a quake-prone region, Xinjiang introduced a project to construct earthquake-resistant houses, which usually have two rooms and a kitchen, aiming to replace people's adobe houses with sturdier ones made of bricks and steel.

From 2011 to 2015, the autonomous region subsidized the construction of 1.5 million single-family houses for about 6 million farmers and herdsmen with an investment of 121 billion yuan ($17.5 billion), according to Xinjiang's Housing and Urban-Rural Development Department.

Xinjiang will subsidize another 1.37 million houses for impoverished families in the 2016-20 period. Currently, about 882,000 houses have been completed, the department said in a statement.

"We will make rural housing development and the safety of housing a priority for rural poor families, and make the housing project a driving force for lifting them out of poverty," it said.

Government subsidies are set based on a family's level of poverty. The average subsidy for each house built this year was 43,200 yuan.

In the 22 impoverished national-level counties in Xinjiang, various approaches have been used to help people get enough money to build earthquake-resistant houses, including hiring poor residents to build their own houses and providing reimbursement.

In Aktokhay, one of the poorest villages in Aksu prefecture in southern Xinjiang, about 100 poor villagers have been employed to build 73 houses in the village this year, according to the village's poverty relief team.

Team official Yang Taoli said, "Some villagers who worked on construction sites far from their homes as welders or bricklayers now can work in their own village and build their own houses."

A welder can earn about 10,000 yuan from April to October, he said. "We will pay them once a week to increase their motivation."

Yang said the team also employs many women who cannot leave home because of elderly parents or young children. They can do some simple jobs, including carrying bricks and mixing cement so as to increase their incomes, he said.

Tokhut, a bricklayer, can earn about 200 yuan a day. He said the team "invited some building engineers to teach us some skills, and maybe in the future I can be a building contractor."

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