The SEAOSC Safer City Recon team rose bright and early to start the morning over breakfast at 7:30am. We discussed the goals for the day and headed out to our first stop, a meeting with local Mexican engineers Yuri Atayupanqui and Raquel Barrionuevo.
With the help of Yuri and Raquel, the Safer Cities Recon Team was able to gain access to a public hospital affected by the earthquake, something that previous reconnaissance teams were not permitted to do. Once at the hospital, the team was briefed on various areas of concern in regards to structural deficiencies. We were surprised to find that hospital staff were excited to see us, because they were concerned about the safety of their buildings. The team performed rapid assessments of damaged buildings followed by interviews with doctors and nurses. The hospital staff did not receive an early earthquake warning, because the earthquake epicenter of the recent earthquake occurred in a state that did not have an early warning system in place. Doctors and nurses evacuated patients and stayed with patients unable to evacuate despite the danger. Following the interviews, the Safer Cities Recon Team advised the Hospital’s general adjunct director, Juan Miguel Galindo Lopez, and members of the hospital staff to restrict access to unsafe locations and engage structural engineers for areas that require a more detailed evaluation or that clearly require repair/ strengthening. For a hospital that has 3,300 visits a day mostly serving underprivileged members of the community, it is essential that the hospital staff can safely perform their duties. The Safer Cities Recon Team members are glad we could help the Hospital as well as collect valuable information on the challenges hospitals face immediately after an earthquake.
Next, the team hit the ground and began surveying buildings in the heavily affected Benito Juarez District. Several buildings are severely damaged in this area with some buildings totally collapsed. At one location the team found 2 multi-unit residential buildings built prior to 1985 with apparent soft story collapses at the 1st level. Stricter requirements for this building type were incorporated for new buildings in building codes following Mexico City’s large earthquake in 1985. These collapses are indicative of the team’s preliminary findings that the buildings built prior to 1985 are more vulnerable than buildings built to subsequent building codes. Unfortunately, the lessons learned from the 1985 earthquake did not seem to be effectively implemented on existing buildings.
Crowds gathered as the Safer Cities Recon Team continued to survey buildings with displaced people hoping that “Engineers from the United States” could assess their buildings and tell them if their buildings were safe or not. One woman approached the group concerned that her son was being told to go back to a school that was not safe. The team answered hers and other’s questions and informed the people of structural hazards in the buildings.
The day was eventful and productive with a wealth of information gathered as the team continues its mission to understand building behavior and the impacts on the community. Stay tuned as we have a big day planned for tomorrow!
Safer Cities Team and Staff at Public Hospital. From Left-to-Right: Russ, Raquel, Hospital Staff, Marty, Hospital Director, Dion, Daniel, Ken, and Raul
Collapsed 1st story of building in Benito Juarez