Huge Earthquake Simulator To Get An Upgrade

The University of California, San Diego’s outdoor shake table in Scripps Ranch will soon give engineers a truer sense of the fury released when big earthquakes erupt in places around the world.

The National Science Foundation gave the school $16.3 million to upgrade the center so it can more accurately simulate quakes, a complex phenomenon that in some years kills hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.

The table is the largest of its kind and has conducted experiments that have led to tougher building and design codes for bridges and housing. But it can move structures only backward and forward. Quakes can move the ground in many directions.

Engineers will modify the table so that it also can move up and down, right and left, and simulate the pitch, roll and yaw that can come with ground motion. Collectively, these movements are called the “six degrees of freedom.”

The upgrade involves adding pistons and power to a table that’s used by researchers from around nation to simulate quakes big enough to send seismic waves coursing through the earth for weeks.

“We will be able to reproduce earthquake motions with the most accuracy of any shake table in the world,” said Joel Conte, the structural engineer who is overseeing the project. “This will accelerate the discovery of the knowledge engineers need to build new bridges, power plants, dams, levees, telecommunication towers, wind turbines, retaining walls, tunnels, and to retrofit older structures. It will enhance the resiliency of our communities.”

The upgrade comes at a worrisome time in California.

In June, the U.S. Geological Survey said 38 high-rise buildings in San Francisco constructed between 1964 and 1994 could buckle if they were hit by the type of earthquake that devastated the city in 1906. The list includes the Transamerica Pyramid in the Financial District.

There’s also concern about a newer skyscraper, the 58-story Millennium Tower, which has been sinking and tilting, making it more vulnerable to big quakes.

San Diego is also on shaky ground.

In 2017, the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute released a report that says that 2,000 people could die in San Diego if a 6.9 magnitude quake erupts on the Rose Canyon fault, which runs through the heart of the city. Potential property damage: $40 billion.

The EERI emphasized that the figures are just estimates because modeling the complexities of earthquakes is hard to do with existing models and technology.

Even so, engineers have made progress.

Since it opened in the late 1980s, UC San Diego’s Powell Laboratories has been heavily involved in developing and testing key portions of roads and bridges, leading to changes in building codes.

The shake table was added in 2004 to give scientists and engineers better ability to test large structures, from wood-frame buildings to bridge columns to a 70-foot wind turbine.

The need for such a table had been apparent for decades.

The 6.7 magnitude Northridge quake in 1994 appears to have caused the ground to move vertically and horizontally. That vertical movement may be the reason that some bridge support columns rose and pierced the decks of bridges.

Such wild ground motion wasn’t unknown to engineers. The 1971 San Fernando earthquake, which measured 6.6, appears to have caused the soil to rotate in some areas. That, in turn, may have caused some buildings to turn like corkscrews.

The movement contributed to the billions of dollars in property damage inflicted by the quake.

The table has been used to simulate some of those jarring events, notably the Northridge quake.

That earthquake caused the collapse of a parking garage at Cal State Northridge. Engineers from the University of Arizona built a similar garage in 2008, and then shook it harder than the real quake.

The experiment revealed a great deal about how such structures absorb and distribute energy, leading to a strengthening of national building codes.

More recently, a team led by UC San Diego built and tested a five-story building that had many of the features of a hospital—such as an ICU and a surgery suite—and a working elevator and a sprinkler system. The goal was to understand what would happen inside a hospital during a catastrophic quake.

To ensure that they didn’t miss anything, engineers placed 500 sensors in and around the building, and installed 70 cameras.

Then they simulated several high-intensity earthquakes, and later set part of the building on fire to replicate a frequent aftereffect of quakes.

“What we are doing is the equivalent of giving a building an EKG,” lead engineer Tara Hutchinson said.

The experiment helped lead to the design of safer hospitals, and it was followed by a project that focused on a subject of great concern in California—four-story wood-frame residential buildings that have garages on the first floor.

The structures -built mostly in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s—are now considered vulnerable to collapse in a huge quake.

In 2013, Colorado State University built one of the structures on the shake table and outfitted it with various types of retrofitting to see what would happen.

The result was good, and bad.

The building survived shake tests with the retrofitting in place. When it was taken out, calamity ensued.

“There was creaking and crunching, then a thunderous collapse, followed by dust and debris floating up,” said John W. van de Lindt, the Colorado State engineer who led the project.

Now, Lindt is drawing up plans for a 10-story building that will be built on the same spot. But this time, he’ll be able to move the building in any direction he wants.

“The U.S. and California have really been at the forefront of this kind of research,” Lindt said. “The upgrade will help us keep pace with the world. We really need this.”

Papua New Guinea Hit by 7.0 Magnitude Earthquake

A magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck remote New Britain island in Papua New Guinea on Thursday, the United States Geological Survey said, though there were no immediate reports of damage.

The quake hit about 200 km (125 miles) southwest of the town of Rabaul at a depth of almost 40 km, just before 7 a.m. local time (2100 GMT Wednesday).

“We felt the earthquake a bit, but it was not too strong,” Constable Roy Michael told Reuters by phone from Rabaul police station.
He said there was no damage in the town, but officers had not yet been able to contact villages closer to the epicenter.

UPDATE : Indonesians Step Up Search For Quake Victims To Beat Deadline As Toll Exceeds 2,000

Rescue workers in Indonesia stepped up their search for victims of an earthquake and tsunami on Tuesday, hoping to find as many bodies as they can before this week’s deadline for their work to halt, as the official death toll rose to 2,010.

The national disaster mitigation agency has called off the search from Thursday, citing concern about the spread of disease. Debris would be cleared and areas where bodies lie would eventually be turned into parks, sports venues and memorials.

Perhaps as many as 5,000 victims of the 7.5 magnitude quake and tsunami on Sept. 28 have yet to be found, most of them entombed in flows of mud flows that surged from the ground when the quake agitated the soil into a liquid mire.

Most of the bodies have been found in the seaside city of Palu, on the west coast of Sulawesi island, 1,500 km (930 miles) northeast of the capital, Jakarta.

More than 10,000 rescue workers are scouring expanses of debris, especially in three areas obliterated by soil liquefaction in the south of the small city.

“We’re not sure what will happen afterwards, so we’re trying to work as fast as possible,” said rescue worker Ahmad Amin, 29, referring to the deadline, as he took a break in the badly hit Balaroa neighborhood.

At least nine excavators were working through the rubble of Balaroa on Tuesday, picking their way through smashed buildings and pummeled vehicles. At least a dozen bodies were recovered, a Reuters photographer said.

“There are so many children still missing, we want to find them quickly,” said Amin, who is from Balaroa and has relatives unaccounted for. “It doesn’t matter if it’s my family or not, the important thing is that we find as many as we can.”

The state disaster mitigation agency said the search was being stepped up and focused more intensely on areas where many people are believed to be buried.

The decision to end the search has angered some relatives of the missing but taxi driver Rudy Rahman, 40, said he had to accept it.

“As long as they keep searching, I will be here every day looking for my son,” said Rahman, who said he had lost three sons in the disaster. The bodies of two were found, the youngest is missing.

“This is the only thing I can do, otherwise I would go insane,” he said, choking back tears. “If they stop, what can I do? There are four meters of soil here. I couldn’t do it on my own.”

While Indonesian workers searched, the disaster agency ordered independent foreign aid workers to leave the quake zone.

Indonesia has traditionally been reluctant to be seen as relying on outside help to cope with disasters, and the government shunned foreign aid this year when earthquakes struck the island of Lombok.

But it has accepted help from abroad to cope with the Sulawesi disaster.

The disaster agency, in a notice posted on Twitter, set the rules out for foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs), saying they were not allowed to “go directly to the field” and could only work with “local partners”.

“Foreign citizens who are working with foreign NGOs are not allowed to conduct any activity on the sites,” it said, adding that foreign NGOs with people deployed should withdraw them immediately.

A few foreign aid workers have been in the disaster zone, including a team from the group Pompiers Humanitaires Francais that searched for survivors, but they have spoken of difficulties in getting entry permits and authorization.

“This is the first time we encountered such difficulty in actually getting to do our work,” team leader Arnaud Allibert told Reuters, adding they were leaving on Wednesday as their help was no longer needed.

Indonesian governments are wary of being too open to outside help because they could face criticism from political opponents and there is particular resistance to the presence of foreign military personnel, as it could be seen as an infringement of sovereignty.

“There are political sensitivities, especially with an election coming up, and sovereignty is another issue,” said Keith Loveard, a senior analyst with advisory and risk firm Concord Consulting, referring to polls due next year.

Sulawesi is one of Indonesia’s five main islands. The archipelago sees frequent earthquakes and occasional tsunami.

In 2004, a quake off Sumatra island triggered a tsunami across the Indian Ocean that killed 226,000 people in 13 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.

Foreign governments and groups played a big role in aid efforts in 2004.

Toll In Indonesia Earthquake, Tsunami Nears 2,000 With Thousands Still Missing

Teams in the earthquake and tsunami-devastated city of Palu, Indonesia, dug through rubble and mud looking for bodies Monday as the death toll rose to nearly 2,000 with thousands more unaccounted for.

In the hard-hit neighborhoods of Petobo and Balaroa more than 3,000 homes were damaged or sucked into deep mud when the magnitude 7.5 quake turned loose, wet soil into quicksand-like mud on Sept. 28.

“Based on reports from village chiefs in Balaroa and Petobo, some 5,000 people have not been found. Our workers on the ground are trying to confirm this,” disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said Sunday at a news briefing in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital.

Search operations are scheduled to end on Thursday, and those unaccounted for will be declared missing and considered dead, Nugroho said. More than 8,000 injured or vulnerable residents have been flown or shipped out of Palu, while others could have left by land, he said.

Children on Monday returned to damaged schools where they helped clean and assess who was still missing. Across the city, nine schools were destroyed, 22 teachers were killed and 14 were missing, the disaster agency said.

At the SMP Negeri 15 Palu middle school, fewer than 50 of its 697 students showed up, Reuters reported.

“Classes haven’t started. We’re only collecting data to find out how many students are safe,” said school principal Abdul Rashid, who was aware of four students killed in the quake.

“I’m still waiting for the Ministry of Education to give us instructions on when to begin classes. For now, I don’t think we’re ready. Many children are traumatized and frightened.”

In some of the areas affected by the disaster, life is starting to return to normal, head of the National Board for Disaster Management Willem Rampangilei said. Immediate food and water needs have been met, and the local government has started to function again.

The U.S. has sent a team of disaster experts to the area and said it will send 2,210 rolls of heavy-duty plastic sheeting from its emergency warehouses in Dubai and Malaysia, enough to provide for the emergency shelter needs of 110,500 people.

Palu is the main city on Sulawesi, one of Indonesia’s larger islands. More than 250 million people live in this archipelago nation, which has been repeatedly struck by quakes and tsunamis.

The national disaster agency says more than 148 million Indonesians are at risk in earthquake-prone areas and 3.8 million people also face danger from tsunamis, with at most a 40 minute window for warning people to flee.

After this most recent quake, however, the three tsunami waves swiftly struck Palu, within just 15 minutes of the quake.

In 2004, a quake off the island of Sumatra triggered a tsunami across the Indian Ocean that killed 226,000 people in 13 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.

Indonesian Quake And Tsunami Death Toll Tops 1500 As Electricity Is Finally Restored To Stricken Palu

A week after a major earthquake brought devastation to Indonesia’s Sulawesi island, the official death toll from the quake and the tsunami it triggered stands at 1571, but it will certainly rise.

Most of the dead have been found in Palu. Figures for more remote areas, some still cut off by destroyed roads and landslides, are only trickling in, if at all.

No one knows how many people were dragged to their deaths when the ground under Petobo and nearby areas south of Palu, dissolved violently.

The national disaster agency says 1700 homes in one neighbourhood alone were swallowed up and hundreds of people killed.

Homes were sucked into the earth, torn apart and shunted hundreds of metres by the churning mud.

The first signs of recovery are evident in Palu. Electricity has been restored and some shops and banks have reopened and aid and fuel are arriving.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla, visiting the disaster zone, said recovery would be completed in two years, beginning with a two-month emergency response phase when everyone who lost their house would get temporary shelter.

Doctors have been flocking to help from other parts of Indonesia.

The Budi Agung hospital has 134 beds with about 20 more set up in a tent outside, all full. A hospital ship is also due to arrive.

Doctors said many patients have been at high risk of infection because they were buried in mud.

Rescue workers are pushing into outlying districts cut off for days. Villagers rushed a Red Cross helicopter that landed at Sirenja village near the quake’s epicentre, about 75km north of Palu, to drop off supplies.

Some quake damage was evident but the coast did not appear to have been battered by the tsunami, a Reuters photographer said.

Sulawesi is one of the archipelago nation’s five main islands, and like the others, is exposed to frequent earthquakes and tsunami.

In 2004, a quake off Sumatra island triggered a tsunami across the Indian Ocean that killed 226,000 people in 13 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.

How Liquefaction Made Mud Flow ‘Like Waves’ in Indonesia’s Earthquake Disaster

When a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck central Sulawesi, Indonesia on Friday, survivors found even the ground beneath their feet offered no safety: it had turned to liquid.

Many who attempted to find shelter were trapped by waves of earth that churned like water, the result of an earthquake process known as liquefaction.

“The ground rose up like a spine and suddenly fell. Many people were trapped and buried under collapsed houses. I could do nothing to help,” one survivor told the Associated Press this week.

The official death toll from the twin disasters — a 7.5-magnitude earthquake that triggered a tsunami — surpassed 1400 on Wednesday. But officials expect the number to rise as rescue workers dig more bodies from under collapsed buildings.

Much of the damage was wreaked by liquefaction. In one neighborhood, an estimated 1,700 houses were consumed by the roiling earth, according to Indonesia’s national rescue agency.

Here’s what to know about the nightmarish phenomenon:

What is liquefaction?

The U.S. Geological Survey explains liquefaction as a process that occurs when water-saturated soil, shaken by an earthquake, acts like a liquid. The ground temporarily loses its ability to bear structures like buildings or homes, often with deadly results.

Earthquake tremors can cause the water-logged soil to oscillate like waves, flow down inclined slopes, or be ejected upward in formations called “sand boils.”

Liquefaction also often causes the ground to settle unevenly, which can upset roads, bridges, pipelines and other infrastructure.

Where does it happen?

Areas near bays or marshland that were filled with dredged or reclaimed land are most vulnerable to liquefaction, according to the U.S.G.S. Land that is made of loose, granular sediment like sand is also highly susceptible.

Liquefaction has been observed during other major earthquakes, such as during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in California, or the during the 1948 Fukui earthquake in Japan, when an estimated 67,000 homes were destroyed and 3,894 people were killed.

Why was it so damaging?
Conditions for liquefaction were ripe in Palu, the seaside town that bore the brunt of Indonesia’s recent disasters. Palu sits at the end of a bay, and is surrounded by a river delta.

Videos of the earthquake in action show buildings crumbling or even more unnervingly, pitching across the ground as if bucked by waves. Trees and telephone poles were uprooted and sent flying, or else consumed by the roiling soil.

“When the quake hit, the layers below the surface of the earth became muddy and loose,” Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the spokesperson for Indonesia’s national rescue agency, told Reuters.

Among the victims were 34 children attending a Bible study camp, who were killed when their church collapsed from liquefaction, according to a Red Cross official.

Another 2,000 people are feared dead in Petobo, south of Palu, after a quake-triggered mudslide washed away homes, the Jakarta Post reported Monday. Local residents said the mud flowed “like waves,” according to the Post.

UN Warns Indonesia Quake Needs ‘Vast’ As Toll Nears 1,400

Nearly 1,400 people are now known to have died in the quake-tsunami that smashed into Indonesia’s Sulawesi island, with UN officials warning needs are “vast” for both desperate survivors and rescue teams still searching for victims.

Almost 200,000 people want urgent help, the UN’s humanitarian office said, among them tens of thousands of children, with an estimated 66,000 homes destroyed or damaged by the 7.5-magnitude quake and the tsunami it spawned.

Survivors are battling thirst and hunger, with food and clean water in short supply, and local hospitals are overwhelmed by the number of injured.

“The sense from the teams all working there… is one of real frustration,” Jens Laerke, from the UN’s humanitarian office, told reporters in Geneva late Tuesday.

“There are still large areas of what might be the worst-affected areas that haven’t been properly reached, but the teams are pushing, they are doing what they can.”

In the hard-hit city of Palu, which was trashed by tsunami waves that swept away people, cars and houses, police officers fired warning shots and tear gas on Tuesday to ward off people ransacking shops.

As survivors pick through the shattered remains of their neighbourhoods, they find more and more bodies.

“The death toll is now 1,374, 113 missing,” Willem Rampangilei, head of Indonesia’s national disaster agency, told reporters in Palu on Tuesday.

“And there are still a few bodies trapped under the rubble. We don’t know how many. Our priority is still to find and save people,” he added.

– Body bag shortage –

Authorities are expecting the number of dead to continue rising as rescuers make contact with previously cut off areas.

The Indonesia-based ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance said that more body bags were “urgently” needed as fears grow that decomposing corpses could provide a breeding ground for deadly diseases.

Rescue efforts have been hampered by a lack of heavy machinery, severed transport links, the scale of the damage, and the Indonesian government’s initial reluctance to accept foreign help.

The Indonesian military is leading the rescue effort, but following a reluctant acceptance of help by President Joko Widodo three days after the quake struck, international NGOs also now have teams on the ground in Palu.

International aid offers have picked up since Jakarta asked for help. Late Tuesday the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund said it was releasing $15 million in aid.

“The Government of Indonesia is experienced and well-equipped in managing natural disasters, but sometimes, as with all other countries, outside help is also needed,” Mark Lowcock, the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator, said in a statement.

On Wednesday, Australia also announced it was sending a medical team to the disaster zone and was providing an additional $5 million in aid.

Despite official assurances, desperation was evident on the streets of Palu, where survivors clambered through wreckage hunting for anything salvageable.

– ‘We need food and water’ –

Others crowded around daisy-chained power strips at the few buildings that still have electricity, or queued for water, cash or petrol being brought in via armed police convoy.

“The government, the president have come here, but what we really need is food and water,” Burhanuddin Aid Masse, 48, told AFP.

Queues to get a few litres of petrol lasted more than 24 hours in some places.

Sanitation is also a growing problem. “People everywhere want to go to the toilet but there’s no toilet. So we do it along the road at night,” said 50-year-old Armawati Yarmin.

Palu’s port, a key transit point for aid, has been damaged.

Berths for ships survived the quake but many of the cranes and equipment that would be needed to quickly offload supplies were toppled by the tremors, the UN said.

There are fears many of the more remote communities are missing out on the immediate aid response which has focused on Palu.

Along the road to Donggala — a large town close to the epicentre of the quake — there were more scenes of destruction. The town itself appeared relatively unscathed, but in the worst affected areas it was difficult to find a single vertical surface.

Donggala resident Farid, aged 48, pleaded for help: “Don’t centre all the aid on Palu,” he said. “We in Donggala have nothing.”

Indonesia is no stranger to natural disasters.

It sits along the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, the world’s most tectonically active region, a location that lends the archipelago stunning volcanic scenery and fertile soils.

But its 260 million people remain hugely vulnerable to earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions.

A massive 2004 quake triggered a tsunami that killed 220,000 throughout the region, including 168,000 in Indonesia alone.