Public Seminar: Magnitude 8.8 Chile Earthquake – Lessons for B.C.

Friday, May 21, 2010 | By
Earthquake Engineering Experts (l-r): Dr. Perry Adebar, Dr. John Cassidy and Dr. Carlos Ventura

On Tuesday, April 27, 2010, the Department of Civil Engineering hosted a public seminar about a recent trip to Chile after the Magnitude 8.8 Earthquake.

In March 2010, members of the Canadian Association for Earthquake Engineering (CAEE) created a ‘reconnaissance team’ of researchers, which included UBC faculty members,  Dr. Carlos Ventura, Professor of Structural Engineering and Director of the Earthquake Engineering Research Facility; Dr. Perry Adebar, Professor of Structural Engineering; as well as Dr. John Cassidy, Research Scientist at the National Research Council – Geological Survey of Canada, who travelled to Chile to observe the damage caused and to assist in the recovery efforts.

Their observations were presented at this non-technical public seminar.

What they discovered, was that the damage caused by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Chile, could also happen on the west coast of Canada and the United States. In the event that we experienced a major earthquake event, the west coast of British Columbia could experience more severe damages.


The Canadian Association for Earthquake Engineering (CAEE) reconnaissance team included:

* Perry Adebar, UBC Civil Engineering
* John Cassidy, GSC Seismologist
* Ahmed Ghobarah, McMaster University
* Sharlie Huffmann, BC MoTH Bridge Engineer
* Ioan Nistor, University of Ottawa
* Dan Palermo, University of Ottawa
* Murat Saatciouglu, Univeristy of Ottawa
* Rob Simpson, Glotman Simpson Inc.
* Carlos Ventura, UBC Civil Engineering
* Adrian Wightman, BGC Engineering

The presentations:

The Chile Earthquake and Tsunami – Dr. John Cassidy

Dr. Cassidy gave an overview of the mission of the reconnaissance team, the places they visited, and a summary of the areas that were impacted. He reviewed tectonic plate movement and the mechanics of the shaking effects including subsequent aftershocks. Pictures and illustrations of the damage from the earthquake and were dramatic and showed the severity of the damage in many coastal areas.

Lessons Learned:

* The loss of life in Chile was relatively low, estimated near 500 people, due to good building and infrastructure standards and a high education and preparedness model allowing the people of Chile to know what is the best response to an earthquake
* The tectonic fault line running along the west coast of North America is much larger than the one near Chile and therefore could potentially cause much greater, more dramatic damage to the coast of B.C.

Residential construction, hospitals, schools and infrastructure – Dr. Carlos Ventura

Dr. Ventura followed Dr. Cassidy’s presentation with an outline of the effects of this earthquake on the public; damage to hospitals, schools, and major infrastructure (roads, water supply, transportation, etc.). Number of those who died and some estimates of those injured or displaced as well as an estimated cost to Chile of about $30 billion.

Lessons Learned:

* Damage to residential construction poses serious socio-economic problems
* B.C.s schools ‘retrofit’ program needs to be accelerated
* We need to reduce the seismic risk of existing infrastructure to ensure that it remains functioning after an earthquake

Modern Buildings and Bridges – Dr. Perry Adebar

Dr. Adebar reviewed the damage to Highways and Bridges in Chile, explaining some of the reasons why bridges fail and roads collapse while the ground is shaking and from the tsunami damage. He explained how and why some modern buildings collapsed or experienced serious damage due to Architectural design problems, poor Structural Engineering and lower construction standards. Dr. Adebar presented photos and drawings illustrating how many of the structures failed during this earthquake.

Lessons Learned:

* Architecture of buildings strongly influences the level of damage
* Narrow walls and columns do not perform well – especially in long-duration earthquakes
* Flexible members are damaged more – especially in long-duration earthquakes

“Monster Quake – Will we survive?” airs on Discovery Channel Thursday, May 27 at 9 p.m. ET/10 p.m. PT


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