My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: 70% of Kingston destroyed if earthquake hits due to Building Code delay

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

70% of Kingston destroyed if earthquake hits due to Building Code delay

It now appears that according to JIE (Jamaica Institute of Engineers), if a magnitude 8.8 earthquake were to strike the Corporate Area, 70% of the buildings would be destroyed or demolished as stated in the article “Earthquake Fright” published Tuesday, March 2nd 2010 by Patrick Forrester, The Jamaica Observer.

President Michele Bachelet of Chile called the catastrophic 8.8 magnitude earthquake and the subsequent tsunami to hit the Chilean coast “an emergency without parallel in Chile’s history” as stated in the article “Chile troops, police attack post-quake looters”, published Tuesday, March 2nd 2010, The Jamaica Observer.

Looting in the streets is uncontrollable by the Chilean authorities and after a death toll of 723 with approximately 19 missing, numbers expected to rise, as one can almost taste the fear in the capital, Concepcion.

But that spine tingling feeling is beginning to be felt in the backs of many Jamaicans, particularly in Kingston.

This is not good.

Jamaica National Building Code is over 102 years old – Port Royal was the last major Earthquake

Before I launch into my usual tirade, especially as I was unaware of the fact that there was even a JIE (I am a contributor to the IEEE, for the record!), much less they had members, I am still confused why people still seem to focus on the capital city, as if that is where all of Jamaica lives.

Aside from this, my usual complaint, this bit of information has me worried – not to mention being thankful that do not live in Kingston. This disclosure, which was made at the Observer’s Weekly Monday Exchange meeting, was further made worse by yet another shocking and horrifying disclosure by Noel Dacosta.

Noel Dacosta, who is Chairman and member of the JIE Building Code Committee states that the current JS 217: Jamaica National Building Code is over 102 years old, only last being amended since 1908, which was after the earthquake in 1907 when Kingston was destroyed.

Amazingly, after that an attempt was made in 1983, or three (3) years before Hurricane Gilbert, to have the Building Code amended, but again was not completed, only ending up as a Policy Document.

But it gets interesting.

JIE updates the Building Code – Government yet to implement their recommendations

The JIE, to the tune of JA$260 million, undertook their own attempt at revising the Building Code in 2003 and ironically have actually completed it this year and placed it at the doorstep of Parliament, awaiting approval, just in time for the earthquake in Haiti, hence their offering of help to that Haitians.

Thus, ironically, if Haiti were to get this Building Code, their buildings would be at a more earthquake resistant and modern standard than ours in Jamaica! Granted the legal paperwork on the Building Code has not yet been completed, with the recent earthquakes since the start of the year.

One would have assumed that the Government of Jamaica would have moved with increased haste to have this new Building Code implemented. According to Noel Dacosta, the New National Building Code of Jamaica was a “gift” to the Government of Jamaica, as they had not been asked to do it.

The JIE was not only being forward thinking, but somewhat embracing a philosophy almost akin to Open Source in Information Technology. It does not help much either as he further comments that “it hasn’t even gone to Cabinet for a submission to be made”.

Ports and Airports would be destroyed in an Earthquake - Big One is coming soon

Aside from the Building Code, the learned John Public will make note of the fact that during this question and answer session, the JIE also pointed out that which was also obvious: the dismal state of our local infrastructure.

This is not much better than our Social and Economic situation as stated in the article “Earthquake Fright” published Tuesday, March 2nd 2010 by Patrick Forrester, The Jamaica Observer.

Dr. Wayne Reid, an executive member of the JIE, pointed out that the current infrastructure that the Government of Jamaica is fixing is mostly ports and airports, which are mostly getting attention as they are gateways of international access and pressure is being placed on the Government of Jamaica to have these infrastructure fixed.

Thus John Public is left to wonder with all of this disorder and chaos in the Social, Economic and Infrastructure of Jamaica, what would we do if an earthquake were to strike, as it is already obvious that since the 1907 earthquake, we are 102 years overdue for the next Big One.

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