US Representatives Were in Christchurch When Earthquake Struck

As can be seen in the accompanying FEMA News photo,  Tim Manning, Deputy Administrator for Protection and National Preparedness at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), was in Christchurch attending a U.S.-New Zealand Partnership Forum when the earthquake struck on February 22.  Manning, a first responder,  changed roles and went to work with a local relief agency going door-to-door checking for structural integrity.

Also by coincidence, Distinguished ASCE Member, David T. Biggs, P.E., S.E., a consultant and former principal of Ryan-Biggs Associates, a structural engineering firm in Troy, NY was in Christchurch delivering a seminar lecture on structural engineering and seismic forensics when the earthquake struck the city.    He was in New Zealand at the request of  Associate Professor Jason Ingham of the University of Auckland’s Department of Civil Engineering.    Biggs specializes in the design, evaluation, and restoration of masonry structures, forensic engineering, and the development of new masonry products.   ASCE arranged for Biggs to  provide  a  day-by-day diary chronicling his experiences starting when the quake struck and then detailing how he joined fellow engineers for several days making use of his experience and expertise to assess the condition and safety of buildings in Christchurch.  The blog-like account of his days in Christchurch is a unique account well worth reading which can be viewed here at the ASCE website.

The earthquake that hit Christchurch on Tuesday, Feb. 22, was a 6.3-magnitude earthquake centered just south of the city of Christchurch.

Elsewhere in New Zealand

Assessments on older commercial buildings in downtown Tauranga reveal that 110 are likely to collapse in a moderate-strength earthquake.  Hundreds of workers in those buildings will be notified of the risk by the City Council.  A register of earthquake collapse-prone buildings is being developed in part as a result of the large loss of life in Christchurch.  The 110 buildings, all of which were constructed prior to 1976, are considered to have less than a third of the strength needed to conform with modern building codes.

Historic Earthquake – Hawke’s Bay

 One of New Zealand’s worst earthquakes occurred on February 3, 1931 at Hawke’s Bay.  The confirmed death toll reached 256.  In this photo from the USGS archives, sailors can be seen searching the ruins of Napier after the earthquake.   A description and photographs can be found in USGS Earthquake Information Bulletin, v.9, no.5, pages 16-17.

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