Among the buildings surveyed Wednesday night, the Safer Cities Recon Team (SCRT) came across an evacuated building with minor damage on the exterior. Tenants from this building are living in tents outside of the building. A district inspector at the site told the team he was unsure of some of the yellow tag designations and if we, as engineers, said the building should have a green tag, he would give the building a green tag. With a green tag, residents can re-enter the building. The inspector explained he was a volunteer and architect by trade. Seeing a need and a chance to help the displaced tenants, the team decided to go to the Benito Juarez District Office of Civil Protection to offer our assistance.
Shelter for displaced tenants in Benito Juarez District
Early Thursday morning, the SCRT met with the Benito Juarez District Director of Civil Protection, Jorge Cruz. The team found the Director was very busy responding to urgent requests. The Director was happy to see us and began explaining the status of the recovery effort in his district. We learned, as of the latest count on October 4th, roughly 800 buildings have been inspected out of the 2100 requests. The Director explained that not all of these requests were valid as people with previously damaged buildings not damaged by the September 19th earthquake were trying to take advantage of government aid. According to the Director, these fraudulent requests are making it difficult to find the buildings that truly need assistance.
SCRT team meets with Benito Juarez Officials (Director with white shirt)
As we finished our meeting, the Director received a phone call with another emergency request. Ken O’Dell and Raul Jimenez volunteered to join the Director, while the rest of the team returned to the buildings from the night before. At the scene of the emergency request, Ken and Raul were asked to advise the Director on appropriate demolition techniques for a collapsed building being supported by an adjacent building. Ken and Raul provided advice and highlighted that the heavy duty equipment used for other collapsed structures may endanger adjacent buildings to this site and suggested alternate techniques.
Collapsed building being demolished in Benito Juarez District
Team members Daniel Zepeda, Dion Marriot, Marty Hudson, and Russell McLellan returned to the building from the previous night with a potential to be green tagged. The team members gained access to the structure and performed a thorough assessment. Two additional buildings were found behind the building of interest. The team found concrete columns with significant damage at the first level in the center building which posed a stability risk for this building and the adjacent buildings. Based on this damage, the team agreed with the government’s assessment that the damage is repairable, but the buildings are not occupiable. Displaced tenants were thankful to the team, despite hearing the news they still could not enter their building. With “Engineers from the United States” validating the government’s assessment, the people felt assured that there was in fact a real hazard.
Damaged column in above referenced building
The team finished the day with a debriefing meeting with the Director. The day was a huge success, as the team was able to get an inside look at a local jurisdiction’s response to the earthquake as well as lend our expertise to the people living in Benito Juarez displaced by the earthquake. Tomorrow will be a big day as well. The team plans to visit a collapsed school that killed 16 children as well as Jojutla, a small town closer to the epicenter, which was severely damaged. Stay tuned!
SCRT Team with Benito Juarez officials and volunteers. Left-to-Right: Alejandro (Architect, Volunteer City Inspector), Russell, Marty, Raul, Volunteer, Jorge Cruz (Director), Daniel, Volunteer, Dion, Ken, Volunteer, and Volunteer.