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National News

Embassies to be checked for quake-readiness

OTTAWA - Four years after an earthquake devastated Haiti, the federal government wants to know how a handful of its embassies would hold up to similar tremors.

Foreign Affairs served notice last week that it will be looking for contractors to determine whether six of its consulates in Asia are structurally sound and quake-proof.

The work is part of a larger exercise that identified dozens of embassies and consulates that were at risk, according to a contract document.

"An initial rapid screening identified fifty-three (53) locations deemed to be of high seismic risk and requiring further evaluation," it says.

"Upon completion of this initial screening, a four-phase seismic program was established."

The department will be looking for consultants to assess the embassies and consulates in the Chinese capital Beijing, Wellington and Auckland in New Zealand, Jakarta in Indonesia, Hanoi in Vietnam and the Mongolian capital of Ulan Bator.

The work involves four phases.

The first step is to take a quick look at each building. Then, the contractor will figure out what needs to be done and how much the work will cost.

The third step is to put out a tender for any work that needs to be done and come up with a timeline.

The fourth and final step is to supervise the work and report back to Foreign Affairs.

"We take the safety and security of our employees very seriously," department spokesman Ian Trites wrote in an email.

"This (request for proposals) is part of (the Foreign Affairs Department's) ongoing efforts to ensure that all Canadian missions meet the seismic safety codes, especially in moderate and high-risk regions."

In January 2010, thousands of people died after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti. Canada's embassy in the capital of Port-au-Prince sustained damage but remained functional in the aftermath of the quake.

This isn't the first time Foreign Affairs has sought to make its embassies more resistant to earthquakes.

In October 2012, the department put out a call for bids to assess the need for a "seismic upgrade" of its Tokyo embassy building and official residences.

The Canadian mission is about 225 kilometres south of the scene of one of the worst earthquakes in history, which left an estimated 19,000 dead or missing.

A 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami struck Japan in March 2011, causing a badly damaged nuclear power plant to spew radiation across the country and into the Pacific Ocean.

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