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ASCE Follows Up on New Zealand Quake With Structural Engineering Investigators

SEI Reconnaissance Team Follows Up After
Firsthand Experiences by Top ASCE Members

Christchurch cathedral spire damageSix weeks after the tragic, devastating 6.3 magnitude earthquake that struck Christchurch, New Zealand on Feb. 22, an ASCE-sanctioned Structural Engineering Institute team of five arrived in the city to investigate the massive destruction to the city's critical infrastructure. Since its departure from San Francisco on Monday, April 4, team leader Robert Pekelnicky, P.E., S.E., LEED AP, M.ASCE, has provided a daily first-person journal, detailing their findings in Christchurch. Pekelnicky, a member of the ASCE/SEI Seismic Rehabilitation of Existing Buildings Standards Committee, is a structural engineer who is an associate principal at Degenkolb in San Francisco. See what he's seen, as Pekelnicky illustrates his experiences with many photographs. 
The quake's epicenter was three miles from the city's center, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, and was felt across a large part of New Zealand's South Island. It was considered part of an "aftershock sequence" following a 7.1 magnitude earthquake last Sept. 4, the USGS reported. That quake wrecked hundreds of buildings but there were no deaths as that epicenter was 25 miles west of the city.

The day the earthquake struck Christchurch, two esteemed ASCE members happened to be in the city and felt it all. Each wrote great daily first-person accounts exclusive to ASCE about their experiences through the temblor and in the aftermath, assisting with structural inspections.  

Distinguished Member David T. Biggs, P.E., S.E., Dist.M.ASCE, HTMS, was coincidentally delivering a seminar lecture on structural engineering and seismic forensics. Biggs wrote a detailed daily diary on his experiences as the quake struck, and how he joined fellow engineers in applying his expertise to assessing the safety of buildings in Christchurch.

Also in Christchurch was Structural Engineering Institute president Roberto T. Leon, P.E., Ph.D. The professor of structural engineering, engineering mechanics and materials at Georgia Institute of Technology was a week into the start of a teaching fellowship at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch. Read Leon's report to ASCE about his experience of what it was like during and after the quake, on and around campus.

If you wish to make a donation, click for New Zealand Red Cross's financial donation page.

For the latest news on the earthquake recovery, click for coverage in The New Zealand Herald.