Sunday, July 4, 2010

Back from Haiti

Sorry for the interruption in the postings. After the last posting on Tuesday we moved to another hotel which happened to have very poor Internet connection. Wednesday thru Friday were particularly hot and humid day but the team kept the pace up. At the end, we collected data from over 150 buildings in the greater Port-au-Prince area and Leogane.
The return trip was smooth. The team was great --thank you all very much folks! We accomplished the field mission we had set for and saw a lot along the way.
One last note, for those of you interested in helping: Haiti and the Haitians still need all the help they can get.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


It took about two hours to get to Leogane from Petionville but it was worth it. Inspected about 40 buildings in five hours. The destruction in Leogane is heavier than in Port-au-Prince. There has been significant progress in cleanup and even reconstruction --they simply cannot wait for someone else to build for them. We saw a couple of disaster home complexes. I will try to post photos later on. Today we are in Port-au-Prince.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Day #2 passed well. We drive around, find a good spot to stop and spread for an hour or so to find and inspect buildings. The group has documented over 50 buildings so far. We will scout Leogane area today. Expect to see much higher level of damage. Orevwa.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Bonjou de Ayiti. We are back in Haiti! Yesterday (25 June 2010), a team of 10 of us from Purdue, U Kansas, and U Washington in Seattle arrived in Port-au-Prince to inspect buildings and collect data.
Compared to early March 2010, life on the street appears to be less hectic -airport is more orderly; traffic is better with much fewer "international"s. But I doubt if life is any easier for the Haitian folks. Major collapses (not common folks') have been removed but if you have not been here soon after the earthquake you may not be able tell that the difference. The city still looks like a major disaster area. Heaps --and sometimes, hills-- of debris are still around. (Side info: president of a church in Delmas 103 area told us that it cost about $70 to get rid of a truck-load of debris these days.) In summary: for Haitians, the earthquake disaster of 12 January 2010 is still very much on-going.
While driving around the city we did not see any new housing construction for the folks who lost their homes.
On the technical side: we inspected and took measurements from about 15 buildings. The group split into four smaller teams but stayed together to sweep survey school complexes and other buildings we can inspect quickly. We have Roby and Steeve --two recent CE graduates of State University of Haiti; fantastically helpful guys; they are heading to Purdue for grad school-- and Val --a smart Haitian youngster who has one more year to study to get his high-school diploma; being the sole survivor from his family, he scrambling to live in his tent while dreaming of getting his degree and going to language school to improve his English. Of course everything costs money which Val does not have --Haiti is not cheap, particularly if you are Haitian. And we have Patrick --a recent Purdue CE/Structures alumnus working at a micro-finance organization in Port-au-Prince since March; a very nice fellow with amazing spirit for experience!
Tomorrow we will continue our survey in Port-au-Prince. On Monday we plan to drive to Leogane --epicenter region-- to see if there is anything left there to inspect.
Expect updates. Until then, orevwa.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Back at home. Return trip (PAP-Miami-Charlotte-Indy) was long but alright. Looking forward to visit Haiti again very soon. There is a lot more to see and, more importantly, to do on the ground.
Special thanks are due Prof. Reginald DesRoches (Georgia Tech). He has been a great recon team leader. I wished he could now rest a little bit. But not yet. First a short report and then a longer and more detailed one will be coming out in the next few weeks to a month or two. Distilling the observations from this long and extensive reconnaissance is no easy task. Godspeed to him!

I would like to end by expressing my gratitude to Professor Amr El-Nashai (UIUC), Jean-Robert Michaud (Boeing), Anna Lang (UCSD), and, especially, Amanda Lewis (UIUC) for making this trip as fruitful as it has been for me. They have been great company.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

3/5 - Friday It turned out to be a very productive day. Took measurements from nine buildings; mostly from the Delmas St Louis de Gonzague boys' school complex. Damage varied between full-story collapse (see photo) to none. The stronger motion appears to have been in the approximately north-south direction.

In the afternoon, drove westward to Carrefour and Mariani. Carrefour municipality compelx has two portions. One portion has partial collapse, the other fared much better. (see photo)

In Mariani district, checked out "do-it-yourself" structures. Column cross-sections are approx. 6-in x 6-in. Cement and steel are expensive, and they seem to go with as little as possible. (forgot to note earlier that the main P-a-P port is owned by a family; they add 75% charge on everything that enters Haiti through the port. 75%!). The tailor seen in the photo is the owner of a damaged DIY structure built by her husband and son.

The day ended with a very nice dinner and great company at the Jadottes.

Packing will be easier. MIA flight is at 1:15PM on Saturday.

Friday, March 5, 2010

3/4 - Thursday. The day started with a breakfast meeting with faculty from the Faculty of Sciences (includes civil engineering) of the State University of Haiti. There is only one state university here and they accept very small number of students; about 20 per year to the Faculty of Sciences. I am told most of the students choose civil or mechanical engineering. It was a most productive meeting. We saw a series of very details map of fault zones (beyond and above what is available online or published so far). Prof. Yves Fritz Joseph, General Director of the National Laboratory for Buildings and Construction (LNBTP) and geotechnical engineering faculty at the SUH, said they will be publishing a new report in a week or so. Had a ~1.5 hr discussion with Profs. Janin Jadotte, Jean Raoul Momplaisir, and Christian Rousseau. We are hoping to collaborate closely. Invited them and their students to join our field investigation. Students are either displaced or staying with their families out of town. School is closed (Faculty of Sciences campus is damaged). They are trying to restart education in May. We asked how we could help. Apparently they are in great need of books (technical and scientific, textbooks). Please send me an email at if you are interested in providing financial support or books. As of now, I do not know how large amounts of books could be shipped to Haiti (cargo lines are used mainly for humanitarian aid).

After the meeting we drove around the Petionville area to find structures with unfinished walls. Stopped at the nursing school of University of Notre Dame (one of three campuses) and checked out two buildings. Measured one. Saw a multi-story new-looking building across a small banana grove. Checked it out and measured. Infill walls at the ground story were damaged. Center-line columns are enlarged. Took measurements. Then on to Digicel complex to measure the structural elements and overall dimensions (see the photo showing series of columns failed in shear).

It was mid-afternoon already. Took measurement from a totaled "do-it-yourself" building (see photo).

The last task was to go to one of the "slum" cities. Incredible amount of destruction. Clean-up crew was hard at work (USAID pays them $5 each and serves two meals a day; that is about four times Haitians earn on average). Most of the crew members are/were living in the area. They also act as the recovery crew (saw two body bags waiting for pick-up). Took lots of panoramic shots.

Tomorrow will be the last day in the field. We are hoping to take measurements in 3-5 buildings (schools, if possible). We are invited to Prof. Jadotte's house in the evening. I will try to post at night/early Saturday morning. If lines are not working, will post after I get back to the States. Flying to Miami on Saturday early afternoon and back in West Lafayette around midnight.