Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Engineering


The UK based Earthquake Engineering Field Investigation Team (EEFIT) will be conducting a reconnaissance mission to the Port-Au-Prince and the surrounding areas in Haiti to study the effects of the Mw 7.0 earthquake that occurred on the 12th January 2010. The purpose of this mission is to gain insight into how buildings and infrastructure performed during this earthquake and the consequent effect on the local community. To do this a team of four people will spend approximately 5 days in the field collecting data. It is anticipated that th Haiti mission is going to be very different to the other EEFIT missions due to conditions on the ground. The team was therefore limited to four members and extensive pre-mission planning is being carried out. On the return of the team members, the field data will be analysed using novel disaster management tools that will be developed as part of the project and the findings disseminated to both researchers and professional engineers. This grant application seeks financial assistance for the three academic members of the EEFIT group to participate in this mission.

Planned Impact

The Haiti earthquake of 12th January 2010 resulted in a very large number of casualties (>220,000). In the case of this earthquake, the affected area is large, the devastation caused so great and the people affected so vulnerable. With large amount of reconstruction being planned even the smallest measures to reduce the impact will have an enormous effect on the performance of civil engineering structures in future earthquakes. Progress in earthquake mitigation is mainly achieved by informing researchers of gaps in our earthquake engineering knowledge, informing designers of the flaws in existing design practices, informing disaster management planners and policy makers of how to ensure safer systems, and teaching local communities how they can best prepare for the next event. All will benefit from the research; however in the longer term it is the world's most vulnerable communities that will see the greatest impact. The field observations will serve as guidance to the improvement of building codes in both the affected region and to seismic zones in general. They will be particular important for informing the reconstruction process and will have a direct impact on the future resilience of the local community. An important part of EEFITs work is the training of people in both field collection techniques and practical aspects of earthquake engineering design. In Britain, there is an excellent and active earthquake engineering community; however, it can be difficult for young researchers and engineers to gain practical experience in this important discipline. Haiti mission is rather unusual in the sense that the number of team members is limited due to conditions on the ground. However, all the team members will gain from the experience of thismission and from the data collected in the field and damage assessments that are made. This will in turn be of great benefit to the earthquake engineering community in general.


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Description This grant has helped us in carrying a field visit to Haiti after the earthquake and assess the damage. It also allowed us to compare the loss estimation that was carried out from satellite based imagery to the actual damage observed in the field.
Exploitation Route The loss estimation models that rely on satellite imagery need to be used with caution. This can be applicable to other situations likes floods or landslides.
Sectors Construction


Description The Haiti earthquake of 12th January 2010 was one of the most devastating in terms of human impact in recorded history. A shallow event of moment magnitude 7 centred near the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince, it caused at least 150,000 deaths, and rendered many more homeless; 15 months after the earthquake, 1.5 million people were still living in tented communities. A small EEFIT team consisting of a structural engineer, a geotechnical engineer and a remote sensing specialist visited Port-au-Prince three months after the earthquake, staying for a week. Its objectives were much more limited than for most previous EEFIT missions, with the focus on comparing damage assessments made from remote images (i.e. aerial photos) with assessment made from the ground. This was in the context of an unprecedented use of remote images to assist the vital task of assessing Haiti's enormous need for post-disaster aid and reconstruction. The EEFIT team made ground assessments of the damage of 142 buildings in Port-au-Prince, for which damage ratings were also available which had been made both from high resolution vertical aerial images in the GEO-CAN II international exercise, and from the more accurate technique of using oblique angle (Pictometry) images. It was found that the number of buildings assigned by remote assessment as partially or totally collapsed was a factor of 1.5 to 2 times lower than the EEFIT ground assessments. Although the sample size was small for statistical significance, this was the first exercise in which ground and remote assessments of damage have been compared in detail. It enabled the circumstances in which remote assessments both under- and over- estimated damage to be examined in detail, and will assist the process of improving the accuracy of future remote assessments. A limited study was made of the distribution of damage in Port-au-Prince, which appeared to be clustered, with pockets of near total destruction adjoining areas of low damage. This clustering was observed in steep rocky areas, as well as on alluvial plains, and may have been associated with the type of rock underlying the site in ways which do not appear to have been described previously. The extensive liquefaction, which crippled the main port of Port-au-Prince, was also studied in some detail and liquefaction effects outside the capital were observed. The performance of building and bridge structures have been investigated; masonry buildings performed poorly, including confined masonry for which EEFIT collected no evidence of an improved performance compared to unreinforced masonry or concrete frame with masonry infill, although other reports suggest otherwise. Historic timber buildings generally performed well, and a historic cast and wrought iron market building also seems to have been little affected by the ground shaking, although it was damaged by the collapse of adjacent structures, and by fire. A number of recommendations emerged for future EEFIT missions, including the usefulness of a security plan prepared before departure, and of posting a team blog during the mission.
First Year Of Impact 2011
Sector Construction,Education
Impact Types Societal


Description EPSRC
Amount £205,494 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/I01778X/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2008 
End 04/2010