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New Zealand Padang Earthquake Assistance Project Team Log

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The Team assembled in Padang

A Project Team of New Zealand engineers is working alongside Indonesian engineers to provide post earthquake building safety evaluations for the 250 damaged government buildings (schools, hospitals, and offices). View larger Team photo

This log provides a record of their activities that is being updated with their reports from Padang. The photographs in the log can all be enlarged by clicking them, which will also display some related photographs. All of the photographs are also viewable in the Project Team’s photo gallery.

Sunday 11 – Monday 12 October

Eight of the NZ Padang Earthquake Assistance Project Team left New Zealand early on Sunday 11 Oct, with the remaining two following on Tuesday 13 Oct. On Monday, the team was briefed in Jakarta by UNDP with local engineering and NZAID representatives, establishing:

  • The Project Team’s role of providing Principal Structural Advice to the provincial and city government agencies as requested by UNDP Early Recovery Cluster who are managing the recovery process;
  • About 80% of the city had already received a Rapid Level 1 assessment; and
  • The President of Indonesia required a recovery action plan by 20 October.

The Project Team then flew on to Padang and their basic accommodation in central Padang City, in the Hotel Femina. Their first (induction training) task at 2100 hours was to assess the structural safety of the hotel building itself. A new 3 story block was judged unsafe due to earthquake damage, so up to four members were required to share rooms in the older part. There was electricity, water, sanitation, food, and cell phone coverage, but no access to landlines. The were several collapsed buildings within 100 m of the hotel.

The Project Team developed an enhanced version of the basic Unsafe, Restricted Use and Inspected placard categories while in transit to provide more helpful information.

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Hotel Femina, the team’s initial accommodation
Structural damage to the new front wing of Hotel Femina
Structural damage front wing of Hotel Femina
Undamaged old rear wing of Hotel Femina, the preferred accommodation
View from Hotel Femina
Further damage near Hotel Femina
Padang National University: Rebecca Sanders inspecting damaged faculty building
Padang National University: Rebecca Sanders inspecting damaged faculty building

Tuesday 13 October

On the evening of Tuesday 13th (NZST), after the first 24 hours, the Project Team’s report included:

  • The work-base at the UNDP field headquarters is a large wedding marquee on generator power.
  • Internet connection is now available.
  • The Project Team convened the first UNDP Pandang building assessment meeting involving all agencies, including Provincial and City Public Works engineers, Australian Army engineers, and AusAid engineers.
  • The Project Team will initially focus on Level 2 assessments on the 250 government buildings.
  • In the evening the EERI team was met up with, to share some early observations (for more details, see EERI activities)

An emerging issue is the heavy demand for demolition expertise (both engineering and contracting).

Wednesday 14 October

  • The two Australian Army Engineers assisting with the Level 1 Assessments departed at the end of the day.
  • The Project Team established six composite Level 2 teams of 4 to 6 engineers and translators to undertake Level 2 assessments, comprising NZ, Aus, Indonesia Provincial and City PU (Public works Dept).
  • Level 2 assessment is undertaken collectively, and a brief summary statement on the concept solutions for repairs or demolition is provided by the Project Team.
  • Level 2 assessments are being compiled onto a spreadsheet.
  • GPS units are working and the teams are logging the coordinates of each site with their assessments.
  • The 800 bed public hospital was inspected at the request of the NZ and Australian engineers, as this appeared to have not been included in earlier lists.
  • Of the damaged buildings, there is extensive damage to columns. They require considerable lateral bracing and column jacketing.
  • Mike Stannard and Dick Beetham arrived in Pandang in the early evening.

Emerging issues:

  1. The principal cause of much of the damage and many of the failures is the infill brick panels not being accounted for in the structural design, in conjunction with a lack of column transverse reinforcement. The widespread collapse of newer structures is of concern to everyone.
  2. Cash is required to pay for all services including accommodation. Banks are hesitant about exchanging USD, which has caused considerable cash flow challenges for the team. However two ATM machines were found that will dispense up to a daily maximum of 300USD (3 million Rupiah, so at least they can call themselves temporary millionaires!). Hopefully this will be sufficient to maintain operations.

The team is in good spirits in challenging conditions (~32 °C with no air conditioning), and making good progress with its work. Getting the local engineers to participate and work together has been an early achievement.

Thursday 15 October


We are seeing in Padang the common range of earthquake impacts, from the lightly damaged buildings, that with one or two bits of work can be made occupiable, right through to totally destroyed buildings. One pancaked hotel claimed 200 victims. There are many soft storey collapses (or near collapses) caused by non-separated brick infill panels, open ground floor layouts, and the absence of seismic detailing.


The Project Team have now assessed a total of 91 public buildings of all sizes and scales (up to 5 storeys). They are proving to be very efficient, assessing 47 of the 91 yesterday, and are providing consistent assessments.

A deliberate effort is being made to include the City and provincial Public Works engineers in our process, which appears to be working well. Mechanisms are being developed to help the local engineers use the information, both while we are here and after we have gone.

A daily logistical challenge is co-ordinating, with the engineers of the two Public Works Departments (City and Provincial), the buildings to be assessed, along with assigning the local engineers and the Project Team members into the assessment teams and vehicles, and estimating the likely time available for the assessments.

Emphasis is on the quick bits of work that can enable buildings to be occupiable – e.g. removal of loose brickwork at high level, or simple propping of all-but-failed gravity columns) and more effective safety barricading.

Emerging issues

  1. We are not seeing any signs of temporary propping. Normal business is resuming in damaged premises. While, as repairs commence in earnest, contractors are getting straight into repair work, typically starting with tidying of damaged concrete work, while working in unsafe conditions. We are showing them standard propping techniques taken from the NZ Urban Search and Rescue propping manual.
  2. We have yet to see any building controls guiding the repairs, this is a real concern to us in the context of ‘Build Back Better’, in the face of the threat of a much larger subduction zone earthquake.
  3. We have yet to see much evidence of the use of concrete shear panels. If we could introduce them into the post-earthquake reconstruction, a few of these would make such a difference in providing lateral stability to some minor or even moderately damaged buildings.
  4. Earthquake engineering knowledge is in very short supply here.

Team Organisation

We are benefiting hugely from half a dozen interpreters that are very much part of our team. They are doing interpretation here and in the field, and written translation of our work into local language (including placards), which is a key part of making our output usable by local folk.

Dave Brunsdon

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The entrance to the UNDP Base
Public Works Officials and Roger Brown at a meeting in our “air conditioned” (by fan) UNDP Base tent.

Friday 16 October


Level 2 Rapid Assessments of more public buildings continued, with 30 being inspected. This makes a total of 121 buildings assessed over the four days, comprising public and private hospitals and health facilities, schools and universities, and government offices.

Friday’s total was less than the previous day, as the team turned its focus in the afternoon to consolidating the information. This involved tidying the hard copy field assessment forms, filling in gaps in information such as GIS co-ordinates, converting the initial recording and summary spreadsheet into a more systematic database, and building a central directory for storing images and other information.

Method statements of the team processes are also being prepared, these will help future missions of this nature.

A planning meeting was held with the municipal and provincial Public Works departments to establish arrangements for transferring electronic summaries and hard copy assessment forms to their respective organisations. There is a balance to be struck between their urgent need for the information and our need to enter and organise the information carefully. A key step in our process is translating our overview statement of the concepts for repair or demolition for each building into Indonesian.

We have undertaken to transfer all of the forms and summaries to each of the agencies by the end of Monday.

Forward Planning

The other focus of the planning meeting was to establish our focus for our second week. Both of the Public Works departments agreed that we had completed virtually all of the assessments of their priority structures. They would like us to focus our efforts on revisiting their marginal structures – the removal of hazards such as loose high-level brickwork or temporary propping of some damaged columns that would enable buildings to be opened up for wider use, or more specific guidance on where to restrict access to. This in itself could occupy the team for all of the second week.

However, we have been asked by UNDP to consider how to assess commercial buildings where large numbers of people can assemble – theatres, hotels, shopping malls. This is a challenging task, as there is no list to start from, and no immediate connection with the building owners.

Additionally, we will be giving general advice to UNDP as they plan the resourcing of demolition operations for major structures.

Team Aspects

The team continues to be healthy and in good spirits – two aspects that can’t be taken for granted in 30+ °C and very high humidity conditions.

We have discovered the local early morning food markets, near the Hotel Femina, which provide much-needed fresh fruit (of all varieties). Looking forward to a day on Sunday away from the city of Padang looking at the wider impacts of the event in the province – and all moving to the greater comfort of the Hotel Inna Mura.

When we returned to the Hotel Femina last night, we were pleasantly surprised to see that repair work was underway, with three of the damaged columns now being supported by large steel beams, and plans for additional lateral bracing.
Dave Brunsdon

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Hotel Inna Muara – the new team accommodation. The New Wing!
Hotel Inna Muara – The Older Wing, the preferred team accommodation

Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 October

To date the team have assessed approximately 120 priority Government buildings.

We met with provincial and municipal public works officials on Friday afternoon to get agreement on priorities for the coming week. They have agreed that, while there are some additional buildings that they would like assessed, the buildings that the team have already completed are the most important from their perspective. They would now like more specific advice on some of these buildings rather than continue with the rapid assessment of lower priority buildings. We have also been asked to provide some advice and recommendations on private buildings to which the public have access.

No new assessments were undertaken on Saturday, the priority being to consolidate the large amount of data, enter the information from the assessment forms into a summary spreadsheet, and sort the many photos into files by building.

Saturday afternoon was spent having a general look at some other publicly assessable buildings such as banks, hotels, etc, to get an overview of the sort of assistance we might be able to offer before the team leaves at the end of this week.

On Sunday we had a trip out of town into the hills along the Great Sumatran Fault. There had been some significant slips but the road had been cleared. One village, Sicincin, has suffered serious damage. Approximately four out of five of the largely single story stone masonry buildings have collapsed, some completely flattened.

The team is in good spirits and have now moved hotels so we are all together in the one location. Rooms are still at a premium so dormitories remain a necessity.

Perspectives from the team

Scott: There is huge devastation to a number of cases of beautiful architecture but it is great to see how resilient the people are. We have a fantastic opportunity here to help and at the same time see a country and the people in a way not normally possible.

Roger: I’ve been very impressed by the way the team has functioned and by the way the people of Padang have been getting back to normal. This has been a unique opportunity to work with the locals to develop solutions for them.

Mike: Very interesting to see which buildings have performed and which have collapsed so dramatically. Great team and wonderful friendly local people. We’re working hard to ensure that the information and advice is useful to local officials after the team has left. It’s a real privilege to be here.

Monday 19 October

Another busy day on Monday. We continued with the assessment of government buildings with an additional 18 buildings assessed and a number revisited to tidy up missing information, photos, etc. We also caught up on the data entry and photo copying/scanning of all last week’s assessments. This means that to date we have completed around 140 assessments.

We have received, through UNDP, requests to undertake assessments in Kota Pariaman, a town about an hour’s drive on the coast north of Padang. This is the town closest to the epicentre and has been very badly hit. There are 30 buildings to assess including the four story main government building. Clark and Scott are away this morning to carry out this work.

We have also been requested to help UNICEF assess damage to schools. It is reported that there are close to 3000 severely damaged class rooms in the region.

The assessment focus now is in five areas:

  1. complete the government buildings in Padang;
  2. proved more detailed advice on some of these government buildings that can best aid in the recovery process;
  3. undertake an initial rapid assessment of privately owned but publicly accessible buildings (we have a list of approximately 30 of these);
  4. undertake the assessment of buildings for the local public works in Kota Pariaman
  5. look at school buildings for UNICEF

Last night Dave and Mike attended the weekly UN OCHA (Office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs) meeting that all NGOs and aid cluster groups attend. It is to help coordinate the response and share information on needs. There are certainly a plethora of agencies and NGOs all operating to respond to the issues caused by the earthquake. Dave outlined what the team’s capability and what we have been doing and invited people to use our services if they had real concerns. Requests included orphanages, schools and concerns about land slips in villages up country.

Perspectives from the team

Rebecca: Last night there was an earthquake (M 5.6 RS). I woke up to the shaking at 11:40pm and heard a commotion outside. I rapidly evacuated to join the commotion. There were other Aid team members holding cell phones waiting for the tsunami warning which didn’t eventuate. From discussion at breakfast, half the NZ team slept through the earthquake (including 3 Wellingtonians), and no one else evacuated. A reminder that earthquake risk here is high. They are still waiting for the big subduction thrust movement in these parts.

Dick: Our driver took me to his home yesterday to look at the extensive damage. His family have had to move in with relatives as the building had collapsed. When the earthquake struck, all the neighbourhood followed evacuation procedures in case of the tsunami. Clearly there is widespread understanding of the risks here.

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A two-year old shopping mall
A traditional West Sumatra house. Timber with bamboo cladding performed well. The roof structure represents the horns of a bull. The West Sumatran ethnic people are called the Minangkabau (which literally means “the buffalo wins”).
Demolition has commenced at this English Language School; recovery of the rebar is a priority.
Three storey UNP (university) building, with collapse of the traditional architectural roof at each end, due to inadequate in plane roof bracing
Roger Brown on the UNP (university) roof with a good view of Padang
Team Leader Dave Brunsdon lecturing on why the earth moved.
Jitendra assessing localised damage
Soft storey collapse. The crumpled Hilux suggests a new adventure for TV characters Scotty and Crumpy!

Thursday 22 and Friday 23 October

Thursday was spent doing the last of the assessments before closing off tidying up the database and files.

The focus was on doing as many school buildings as possible – in the three days we spent focusing on this task, 103 buildings were assessed at 51 schools. This was only a small proportion of the more than 2,200 damaged school classrooms.

Warren prepared a summary sketch showing how the masonry walls of single storey classrooms could be effectively tied together, and this was well received by UNICEF on behalf of the Department of Education. The team is very mindful of the basic construction guidance that is required at trade and craftsman level – changes have to be made at this level as well as from national level in terms of implementing processes for independent reviews of structural designs.

Overall, the Project Team assessed a total of approximately 350 buildings. These comprised 233 with Level 2 Rapid Assessment forms and the remainder from a brief survey of buildings in the Chinatown district.

On Friday the Project Team focused on wrapping things up and preparing the information in hard and soft copy format for presenting to the City and Provincial Public Works agencies, Department of Education and UNDP.

Clark, who led the whole information collation and co-ordination process throughout along with Rebecca, who also managed the team of translators, and Mike, who co-ordinated the formal transfer of information to the agencies worked very solidly through to the end of Friday. None of these three did anywhere near as much field work as they would have liked, but the Project Team’s experience has confirmed the very high level of resource input required on the information management side if the overall process is to function properly and generate meaningful data and traceable information.

Final briefing and handover meetings were held with the City and Provincial Public Works agencies, who expressed their appreciation for the efforts of the Project Team.

The Geoscience Australia team undertaking a survey and analysis of building damage in Padang arrived on Friday, and were briefed at UNDP. Dick Beetham is staying on as a member of this team, as well as to provide further liaison for the Project Team with UNDP.

Dave Brunsdon


The Project Team flew up to Jakarta on an early morning flight, and farewelled Scott and Warren, who flew out directly back to Christchurch.

The rest of the team were hosted by NZ Aid in Jakarta at a debrief meeting with UNDP. The team had prepared an exit report including recommendations for where further earthquake engineering inputs are required, and where New Zealand can assist. Short-term recommendations include giving demolition advice for some of the trickier buildings, and the possibility of a NZ – Indonesian workshop to discuss where changes to design, construction and approvals processes are required.

The Project Team has highlighted several areas where change is required in order to achieve UNDP’s objectives of ‘Build Back Better’, including an independent review of the seismic design of government and other major structures.

The remainder of the team departed for NZ on Sunday.

Dave Brunsdon