Field Report: Post Disaster Assessment in the Philippines, Day 4

May 9, 2014

Team members Shenen Chen, left, and Brandon English reviewing conditions at a building. Photo Credit: Mark E. Leeman

Another day of building surveying was completed.  The assessors are gaining familiarity with the construction types and materials.  That made things easier and allowed patterns to be detected between buildings.

We continued to be supported by Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) staff.  This has ended up being a large help to the ASCE team in the process.  Not only do these engineers have local knowledge of the storm, but they also provide information on common construction practices and materials.

The practice of interviewing local officials continued with the mayor of Palo, a town just south of Tacloban.  Her town generally fared well, relative to surrounding towns, with fewer fatalities than other places.  This was mostly due to the nature of the storm effects.  There were predominantly wind effects in Palo, versus high water from storm surge as in some other places.  Nonetheless, she described how the city hall was turned into a temporary hospital on the day after the storm hit.


Completely collapsed civic center building. Photo Credit: Mark E. Leeman

As the team is in the field, we are accompanied not only by DPWH staff and interpreters, but also by two armed escorts from the Philippines Army.  These two men do not speak much English and the Americans are not able to easily communicate with them, but that is okay. They are very nice and work well with us.  Needless to say, two soldiers in fatigues carrying automatic weapons is more intimidating than a group of civil engineers with clipboards, so their purpose is achieved.  All of us are grateful for their presence.

A sad story was revealed today as we surveyed some homes near the Fatima Village area of Tacloban.  David, one of the soldiers, mentioned to us that the former site of his home was just yards from one of the buildings being surveyed, which was largely intact.  He lost his 10-yr old son in the storm.  If you are reading this, one of the most valuable things you can do is to keep him and his family in your prayers.

On Saturday, May 3, a team of seven civil engineers from ASCE’s Technical Council on Forensic Engineering, in cooperation with the Technical Council on Wind Engineering, left for the Philippines on a week-long mission to conduct post-disaster assessments, documenting evidence of structural and geo-system damage to historic and residential structures and public infrastructure. Mark E. Leeman, P.E., M.ASCE, vice president of Facility Engineering Associates of Fairfax, Virginia, chronicles the team’s experiences in this exclusive daily report for ASCE. This is the fourth installment in the series.

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