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Researchers go into action after Tsunami

British researchers have launched urgent research programmes in order to learn lessons from the recent Indian Ocean Tsunami disaster. Such knowledge is relevant to both UK, and overseas disaster assessment and prevention programmes.

Funded by grants from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), teams from the University of Cambridge, the University of Newcastle, and University College London have looked at differing aspects of the tsunami's effects. Their objectives were to collect and assess appropriate structural, topographical, seismological and tsunami related data.

The University of Newcastle received a grant from EPSRC to undertake an immediate survey mission to the regions affected by the tsunami. Dr Sean Wilkinson from the University's Civil Engineering Department, with Dr Tiziana Rossetto from University College London, participated as members of the Earthquake Engineering Field Investigation Team (EEFIT) - which has now returned from the disaster zone. Their aim was to research the damage to buildings and infrastructure caused by the tsunami and to make recommendations to reduce or prevent damage in the future.

A further objective was to assess the reasons for the high death toll and suggest what engineering / architectural measures could be taken to save lives. Drs Wilkinson and Rossetto spent 10 days in Sri Lanka and Thailand researching the tsunami's impact on structures, coastal topography, and the differences in how well-designed and badly-designed buildings stood up to the events.

Dr Sean Wilkinson said of the findings: "What we found was quite unexpected. Even in the worst hit areas, many well engineered buildings suffered only modest structural damage, however they offered little protection from the tsunami. This is the opposite to what we find for normal earthquakes and has major implications for coastal communities worldwide."

A research team from the Department of Architecture at th
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Contact: Lance Cole
lance.cole@epsrc.ac.uk
44-179-344-4312
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
18-Mar-2005


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