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NZ earthquake experts to visit Turkey - 01/09/1999

A team of New Zealand specialists is to spend 10 days in the earthquake-hit region of Turkey collecting information aimed at helping New Zealand minimise the impact of a similar disaster.

Led by Dr Richard Sharpe, Principal of Beca Consultants in Wellington, the eight-strong team will travel under the auspices of the New Zealand Society of Earthquake Engineering and observe effects on buildings, infrastructure, and the community.

The magnitude 7.4 earthquake has chilling similarities to the type and size of earthquake that could hit many New Zealand communities.

There are more than 40 population centres in New Zealand within 10km of an active fault. Some centres, such as Wellington, have multiple active faults running through or near them.

The last big earthquake to hit a populated area in New Zealand was in Hawke’s Bay in 1931. Since then increases in population and complexity of urban centres mean that our vulnerability is far greater than in the past.

The team will be keen to observe the performance of buildings, bridges, power supplies, water and sewer networks, and transport facilities – especially those of comparable engineering standard to those in New Zealand.

As with recent reconnaissance visits to other disaster scenes such as Papua New Guinea and Colombia, the team will share their findings with New Zealand colleagues and the public and make recommendations for changes in New Zealand.

Team organiser Dr David Hopkins said the horrendous damage and loss of life in Turkey was a reminder that New Zealanders should take the threat of a large earthquake seriously.

" We face the prospect of having to cope with massive damage, deaths, and injuries at many locations simultaneously.

" New Zealand must take all reasonable steps to be prepared. This means reducing risks by devoting resources to research, engineering design, and properly supervised construction."

The team is scheduled to leave on September 10. Team members and their main responsibilities are:

  • Richard Sharpe, Beca Consultants, Wellington – structural response and performance
  • Kevin McManus, University of Canterbury – geotechnical aspects
  • Russ Van Dissen, Institute of Geologocal & Nuclear Sciences - seismology, geology
  • David Bradshaw, Sinclair Knight Merz, Auckland – industrial buildings and facilities
  • Tan Pham, AC Consulting Group, Wellington – electrical distribution networks telecommunications/engineering lifelines
  • Craig Stevenson, Connell Wagner, Auckland – commercial and other building elements/building services
  • Don Kirkcaldie, Opus International, Wellington – bridges, roading networks
  • Neil Brown, Civil Defence Manager, Dunedin City Council – emergency management preparedness.