Engineers examine impact of hurricanes on BVI

The impact of Hurricanes Irma and Maria on the strong motion and seismic network throughout the British Virgin Islands BVI) is being examined this week.

The BVI government said in a statement on Thursday that the director of the Puerto Rico Strong Motion Program at the Department of Civil Engineering and Surveying of the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez, Prof. Martinez-Cruzado, is leading a team of engineers to conduct the exercise.

Martinez-Cruzado said that the relationship between the BVI government and the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez started in 2005, with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding, and that “it has been a mutually beneficial relationship since that time.”

“Our frequent visits to the BVI over the years have allowed us to build a network of strong motion and seismic stations on several of the islands,” he said. “This has provided a good reference point and has allowed us to appreciate the magnitude of the damage on the ground.”

Martinez-Cruzado pointed specifically to the extensive damage seen to vehicles that were not seen in Puerto Rico, along with damage to boats, the extent of the impact to roofs and openings, and the total collapse of many structures, including electrical posts, ports and water tanks, according to the statement.

He said the enormous devastation in the BVI following the passage of the hurricanes “opens tremendous opportunities for everyone to help each other.”

“The storm surge has impacted several of the free field stations in coastal locations and caused erosion to internal components of many of the equipment, especially those in the Central Administration Building,” Martinez-Cruzado said. “In some areas in this building, we saw evidence of as much as 38 inches of salt water.”

“The progress of electrical restoration has allowed us to verify that a couple of seismic stations recorded the vibration caused by high velocity winds on the structures and from debris hitting the seismic stations,” he added. “However, there was significant damage caused by the incredibly strong winds to solar panels, antennas and other external components which now have to be replaced.”

The team visited locations on Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke and will complete the inspection of various sites on Tortola before they head back to Puerto Rico at the end of the week, the statement said.

It said the team will also work with the USVI Department of Disaster Management to establish a plan for the restoration of the damaged equipment in the coming months.

The university has supported to the BVI government in the area of seismic monitoring for many years by providing equipment, maintenance, data capture and analysis for earthquake events, the statement said, adding that both countries share seismic faults that need to be closely monitored.

The cost for the restoration will be financially supported by the government of the BVI to the tune of US$122,000 to establish the most critical units.

The installation costs will be handled by the team, which comprises Martinez-Cruzado, Jaffet Martinez and Erick Santana, the BVI government said.

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