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Monday, 12 December 2011

Earthquake Royal Commission - building fatalities hearing

The Royal Commission has commenced hearings on the buildings (other than CTV and PGC) that caused fatalities.

The following is an extract from the opening submission by Mark Zarifeh, one of the counsel assisting the Royal Commission. The full 4 page submission can be downloaded from here.
The fact that over 80% of the deaths caused by these building failures were in relation to people outside the buildings - in the main, pedestrians and motorists -highlights that the issue of what we are to do about URM buildings is a very real community problem.
It also graphically highlights the futility of a Territorial Authority or Local Council having a passive earthquake prone policy and the need to urgently implement policies throughout New Zealand to, at the very least, address the potential dangers these buildings pose from collapsing facades, walls and parapets.
These hearings will also address other issues raised by the Royal Commission's Terms of Reference including:
  • The inspection and assessment of buildings following a large earthquake - in this case the September 2010 earthquake.
  • In particular the unreinforced masonry building failures highlight the need to look closely at the way these buildings are assessed and the need to take into account the potential for collapse in a significant aftershock.
  • Another issue that will come through in some of these hearings is the issue of cordons in front of a damaged building following a significant earthquake. In particular the need to ensure the placement of such cordons provides protection of the public by blocking, off footpaths or, if necessary, roads in the event of a significant aftershock.
  • Another important issue some of these hearings will address is the strengthening or retrofitting of unreinforced masonry buildings and the need for retrofit or strengthening measures to be able to provide effective protection and not fail in a significant earthquake.
  • An issue of communication will also be addressed. The importance of communication of potential dangers posed by a building after a significant earthquake to relevant authorities and to potentially affected neighbouring properties.

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