Ingenieros estructurales y científicos corren a Chile para una observación de primera mano sobre los efectos del terremoto en estructuras y geología. Esto, pues las estructuras afectadas son similares a las de los países desarrollados, y enfrentan los mismos riesgos
SEATTLE - Degenkolb Engineers specialize in making buildings earthquake safe. David Gonzales and Stacy Bartoletti recently returned from the Chilean earthquake zone. So far, nine of the company's engineers have visited the country for a firsthand look at which buildings fared better in the disaster, and which ones came apart.
"This is a very unique learning opportunity for us, we call this the best laboratory we could ever find," said Bartoletti, Degenkolb's President and Chief Operating Officer.
"There's a lot of newer construction, somewhat similar construction to what we would see in the United States, that we can really learn from and see how they performed." adds Bartoletti.
Chile has seen massive quakes like the 8.8 magnitude event in February before. In 1960, the county was hit by a 9.5 magnitude quake which helped propel the country to adopt tougher building codes.
Those big Chilean quakes are highly relevant to cities in the Northwest because the geological conditions that cause giant quakes are remarkably similar. Those big earthquakes are caused by plate tectonics, in this case when a giant slab of the ocean floor if literally forced underneath this section of the South American plate. Here off the Washington coast, the Juan de Fuca ocean plate is being forced under or subducted under the North American plate. This type of quake was also behind the massive Good Friday Quake that devastated Anchorage, and other Alaska communities in 1964.
In Haiti, vast numbers of structures simply collapsed, crushing people inside. That was not typical in Chile. The Haitian quake was much smaller and a very different type. Most of the buildings in Chile's second largest city of Concepcion survived, many with remarkably little damage. Even most of those that will need to be torn down, held up well enough to avoid crushing people. Only about 1,000 people died in Chile, many from an associated Tsunami that hit coastal villages. Some estimates place the Haitian death toll closer to 200,000.
But engineer and Associate Principal David Gonzales says some of the worst examples of collapse happened to structures completed as recently as last year. He points to a condominium that toppled over like a falling domino, virtually intact. He says 8 of the 80 people inside the building died. The engineers found that first stories that lack walls that reach all the way down to the foundation, usually to allow parking, are a weak spot. Gonzales says Chile had backed off on some of its building code requirements that may have contributed to the topped condo. In looking at a series of photos, buildings that were built in the1990s with more stringent codes were the ones that fared the best.