Survey of post-quake Chile shows B.C. is unprepared
Published Friday, May 28, 2010 7:52AM PDT
Engineers looking to the aftermath of the recent earthquake in Chile say that B.C. is less prepared for "the big one" than we've been led to believe.
Hundreds of people died and buildings were destroyed in Chile last February when an 8.8 magnitude earthquake shook the country.
"The earthquake in Chile is essentially what we're expecting in the Pacific Northwest," said Scott Ashford, a Professor of Geotechnical Engineering at Oregon State University.
Mega-earthquakes occur every 300 to 350 years, and the last one that happened in the Pacific Northwest was 310 years ago.
Chile experienced what's called a subduction quake. They are 100 times more powerful than the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906.
"These are the largest earthquakes felt in the history of the earth," Ashford said.
Engineers have been studying the damage in Chile trying to figure out why its brand-new buildings crumbled. Their journey is captured in the documentary "Monster Quake."
"The earthquake in Chile is the first time modern building standards, similar to our own, have been tested," said Mark Miller of the Discovery Channel.
Construction rules in Chile are almost as strict as they are in Vancouver, meaning poor building codes weren't what destroyed them.
In Chile they found that buildings similar to those in B.C. were damaged. The buildings had irregular shapes with parking lots built underneath.
Building codes are changed frequently and engineers are using what they learned in Chile to update buildings in Vancouver.
"That's what engineers have come back to investigate. They're looking now to see if there are buildings here, that have the same issues and the same problems," Miller said.
The fault line near B.C. is longer than the one in Chile, which means when a big earthquake hits Vancouver, the ground could shake for twice as long –- up to four minutes.
Much like bending a paper clip back and forth, the longer the rumble, the weaker a building becomes.
"Our reinforcing steel inside the buildings is going to do the same thing. Eventually it's going to break," Ashford said.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's St. John Alexander