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Degenkolb EQ Reconnaissance Team: Day 2 - Part 1: The Epicenter

The day began with a 7:00 AM flight to Manta on a private plane that Stephen arranged with a contractor friend, Alfredo. The alternative of driving to the epicentral region from Guayaquil takes about three and a half hours to cover the 200 km, so the 45-minute ride was a welcome alternative. Unfortunately, the plane only seated four so Stephen and I represented the Perkins Eastman – Degenkolb team.

First impressions on the ground was that the small airport terminal was closed and an alternative tent-terminal was set up to serve the airport. The terminal suffered broken glass and fallen ceilings showed evidence of superficial wall cracks. The structure wasn’t visible to see the full extent. Alfredo had been to Manta soon after the earthquake and reported that the control tower had collapsed, although there was no sign of it eleven days after the event.

Typical house construction consists of concrete frames with masonry infill. We noticed that often the red bricks used as infill are stacked on the long edge, as opposed to on the broad side. Surely a clever technique to maximize the height per layer.  As vulnerable as the construction would seem, there wasn’t wholesale destruction along our path. Many freestanding brick fences collapsed, but more buildings were spared than severely damaged.

Our first stop was a 911 Emergency Center that was set up as hub for building inspections and volunteers. Our contacts had arranged for a local woman to escort up to three schools to assess the damage. This wasn’t an official green/yellow/red tagging process, however our recommendations to the escort were consistent with the ATC 20 Building Evaluation guidelines.

The first school we visited was in a rural area and consisted of a dozen classrooms among five buildings. The classrooms were constructed with metal deck roofs supported by either steel or concrete beams, with concrete columns supporting the beams. Due to the lightweight roof, these building structure was not significantly damaged, although some plaster fell off of beams in large enough pieces to cause injury or death. We recommended that the facility remove the plaster from the beams as a precaution against future falling hazards. The administrators insisted that we pose with their 80-year-old tree and we happily obliged.

Next stop was a school that was under construction and planning to welcome 1000 students. This school is a two story building, with concrete frames and infill walls, some of which are partial height. The building was a museum of poor detailing and suffered severe damage. In te first of two ironic inspirational signs of the day, the building was inscribed with “We prepare to serve and build the future”. Unfortunately, the school itself was not built for the future, as it is not repairable. We recommended red tag and demolition. Fortunately, the school was not yet opened and no children were present during the earthquake.

One wing of the building has a series of partial height interior infill walls in the longitudinal direction and concrete frames in the transverse direction. In some locations it appears that the beam column joint blew out, and in some cases the short column yielded in shear. Both failures resulted in compromised gravity support and buckled longitudinal rebar. Rebar in this case was smooth bars, both longitudinal and ties. Ties spaced at the column width with about 1.5” 90-degree bends at the corner.

Part two of today will share the experience of walking through the cordoned off area of downtown Puerto Viejo.


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Posted by onayarghandiwal on April 27, 2016 9:15 AM
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