Thursday, July 22, 2010

Introduction to the Project

--- written by Greg on 7/14/2010, Jakarta, 11:00pm, 9:00am PST ---

It’s hard to believe that we have already been in Padang for more than 2 weeks. It has gone by incredibly fast since we have been keeping so busy every day. We’ll try to give you an idea of what we have been doing daily, with whom we have been meeting, and maybe a little of how life is in Padang.

First, although many of you reading know a good amount about the project, I think a little background as to why we are spending 2 months in Padang, Indonesia would be appropriate. For the past 1 ½ years, GeoHazards International (GHI) and Stanford Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW) have been working towards tsunami preparedness in Padang. This city is at the highest tsunami risk in the world, and the local government has not worked very hard to prepare its population of nearly 1 million, half of whom live within 1 km from the coast. Stanford ESW held a class in Spring 2009 to learn about the problem and come up with a few different ways to combat it, from vertical evacuation in buildings, to horizontal evacuation capacity in terms of bridges and other infrastructure in addition to more research into the earthquake and tsunami hazard. In the Summer of 2009, Kelly Wood and Scott Henderson from Stanford, and Veronica Cedillos from GHI, spent about 2 months in Padang researching buildings and the general capacity of the city to handle a catastrophic tsunami that is bound to happen in the next 30 years. On September 30, 2009, Padang experienced a M7.6 earthquake that destroyed many buildings in the city and made apparent the problems that the city will have with evacuation if there is in fact a tsunami (luckily it was only 12” rather than 20m).

Building on the research from the summer and that from the class in the Spring, ESW held a seminar in Winter 2010, led by Kelly Wood, that described to the new batch of Stanford ESW students the issues that Padang faces. After Adam Jongeward and I (Greg Rulifson) took a quick 10 day reconnaissance trip over Spring Break 2010 to work with the students at Andalas University (our partner university) and try to understand what is most important to address in the city with the students who were enrolled in the class for Spring 2010 that I led with Adam. We arrived at 4 teams for the 16 students in the class, who all did great work that we are able to use when discussing the potential of the different options (artificial hill - TEREP, retrofit, new building) that exist for vertical evacuation. This is incredibly important for those who cannot evacuate in time horizontally (away from the coast), so they need to be able to seek safety by getting above the flow of water. I will try to post the products that the teams produced by the end of the quarter that we are working with currently in Padang.

This project has been very successful with the support of the John A. Blume Earthquake Engineering Center, Stanford ESW, engineering firms in the Bay Area who have generously offered their expertise and time, and GeoHazards International who has a great interest in working with the students and engaging them in a real problem existing in the world today. Also, the project won a Mondialogo award, which allowed two students from Andalas University (Andi Syukri and Fengky Yoresta) to visit Stanford and San Francisco for three weeks at the end of the Spring quarter. We are very thankful to have been able to strengthen the bond and collaboration between the universities so this summer work is even more productive since we know each other well. And now, on to Summer 2010…

Lucy and I arrived in Padang from Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday, June 29th in the afternoon, greeted by Fengky, one of the Andalas University students who came to Stanford. A short bus ride and a walk brought us to our summer residence: the dorms at Fakultas Kedokteran (medical school). Andalas University has generously allowed us to stay there with other foreigners who are teaching at the university or doing research. They are all great people and a lot of fun to hang out with in the evenings to go to the beach or watch the World Cup games from 1-3am. Our cozy little room has worked out very well so far after a little fixing up to keep the mosquitos out, especially the refreshing bucket showers each day.

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