Friday, January 29, 2010

Haiti: Poor construction the real disaster

The audience at a recent UC Berkeley lecture given by Eduardo Fierro, one of the first U.S. earthquake engineers to visit post-quake Haiti, collectively cringed as Fierro showed slide after slide of haphazard columns, brittle frames, and slipshod rods and joints. “This was not an earthquake disaster,” Fierro said. “This was caused by people that didn’t know how to use codes, that built things in bad shape. These were the people that caused the tragedy.”


Opinion ... I think Prof. Fierro ignores the total picture in Haiti. I suspect the primary risk in Haiti is hurricanes, where Haiti's "houses and buildings constructed with unwieldy slabs of concrete and cinder blocks" are ideal. This is little different than the wildfire situation in Southern California. Most houses there are wood frame construction because this is a good construction type in earthquake country. However these same houses are a worst case situation when it comes to wildfires. The real question will be when reconstruction occurs will Haiti address all-hazards.

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