Rwanda: Govt Considers New Building Code for Quake-Hit Zones

(File photo).

Rwanda Housing Authority (RHA) is set to embark on a new building code that should be implemented while constructing houses destroyed by earthquakes and tremors resulting from Nyiragongo volcanic eruption in late May 2021.

The code includes earthquake-resistant infrastructures.

The tremors that followed the volcanic eruption led to the destruction of 1,200 homes on the Rwandan side, according to an official tally.

Rwanda Mining Board's Seismic Monitor also announced that the highest quakes with magnitude of around 5.3 between May, 22-28 left cracks in roads and houses in Rubavu.

According to officials, a Post-Disaster Assessment (PDA) is underway to assess the actual damages and the way forward.

To mitigate the effects of the earthquakes, the government is looking into altering some of the building designs currently in place to go with the current building code.

Rwanda building code set up in 2012 was revised in 2015, but the upcoming infrastructures will be in line with the 2019 building code, according to the Rwanda Housing Authority.

"Most of the houses built in the affected areas in Rubavu were built up before 2012 and had an older version of the building code. The new ones will be in-line with the current code which has some earthquake-resistant features," said Felix Nshimyumuremyi, the Director-General of Rwanda Housing Authority in an exclusive with The New Times.

The engineer by profession keeps adding that there are different earthquake resistant features that vary depending on people's affordability.

According to him, most of the houses in affected areas were built by simple mud bricks made up of little clay, facilitating the destruction, saying that more additives can be added to make it concrete.

"For most of the dwellers, their houses were built of mud bricks and soils with little clay content where they needed more additives to ensure protection against destruction", he noted.

The corners can also be concretized by adding trees there because they are more flexible, or using reinforced concrete structures, steel bars and even red bricks as one of the earthquake-resistant features, according to Nshimyumuremyi.

However, he highlights that tighter construction requirements will be imposed on commercial houses and other multi-storied buildings.

"For multi-storied buildings, they have to strengthen their columns and roofing with either steel bars or reinforced concrete structures", he added.

The New Times understands that due to those tougher construction requirements, some low income dwellers will be facilitated to build the required infrastructures.

Moreover, the houses located in the red zone (a wide volcanic crack that traverses from DRC to Rubavu) will be evacuated as another measure.

"We are located in a volcanic zone and we have to be always prepared for these disasters," Nshimyumuremyi ended the interview.

Sources from the Ministry of Disasters and Emergency Management confirmed they are ready to work with the housing authority and the district for any concrete plan that will address effects resulting from earthquakes.

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