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RiskScape in Chile

Rail line that has been displaced by flow depths of about 4 metres. Photo: Richard Woods, Auckland Council.

On the evening of 16 September 2015, a Mw 8.4 earthquake struck off the coast of Illapel, Chile.  Within minutes, the earthquake was followed by a tsunami. 

NHRP Horspool tsunami

Nick Horspool (GNS) surveying damage to the Coquimbo port. Photo: James Williams, Univ of Canterbury.

A RiskScape survey team comprising Nick Horspool (GNS Science), Ryan Paulik (NIWA), Richard Mowll (Wellington Lifelines Group), Richard Woods (Auckland Council and Auckland Lifelines Group) and James Williams (University of Canterbury) traveled to Coquimbo, Chile to assist CIGIDEN*  and the UNESCO Tsunami Information Centre by surveying damage to essential infrastructure services (‘lifelines’) and buildings. The visit was a key opportunity to work alongside Chilean colleagues, share data, and improve  New Zealand’s own tsunami preparations. A recent review by GNS Science of tsunami impacts to lifelines, undertaken for the Wellington and Auckland Lifelines Group, revealed gaps in our knowledge and a lack of quantitative data on damage probabilities.

The team focussed their efforts in Coquimbo, which sustained significant damage to infrastructure, and observed the after-effects from what was a moderate-sized tsunami with flow depths extending to a maximum of 5 metres inland. This is a ‘threshold’ damage event which, according to the New Zealand Tsunami Hazard Model, could occur on some parts of New Zealand’s east coast with about a 1 in 100 year probability or 1 percent chance in any given year.

NHRP Williams tsunami

James Williams (UC) surveying a masonry building struck by debris. Photo: Nick Horspool, GNS Science.

They undertook a census-style data collection method using the Real-Time Asset Capture Tool (RiACT), developed through RiskScape; collecting information on lifelines within the inundation zone, which covered an area of around 3 square kilometers. The survey focused on the energy, transport and water lifeline sectors of which a large number of assets were affected.  the NZ researchers met with representatives from local lifelines companies to discuss the operability of lifeline networks during the event. The collected data will be analysed over the next year to develop tsunami fragility functions for lifelines, which can be used for tsunami impact modelling in RiskScape. Observations from the field were presented at the 2015 National Lifelines Conference (LINK to 'Tsunami Impacts on Lifelines).

The survey was co-funded by RiskScape (GNS Science and NIWA)  NZSEE, EQC, Auckland Council and University of Canterbury.

CIGIDEN, Centro Nacional de Investigación para la Gestión Integrada de Desastres Naturales (National Research Center for Integrated Natural Disaster Management).  Chile’s CIGIDEN is similar to the Natural Hazards Research Platform in its scope: http://www.cigiden.cl/

Contact: Nick Horspool, GNS Science

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Last updated 13 Sep 2016