Reconnaissance mission to site of China earthquake

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Emily So
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The total destruction observed in the town of Beichuan. Two thirds of the population died due to a combination of the earthquake, and mud and rock slides.

In October, 2008, CAR took part in a damage reconnaissance mission to the site of the Wenchuan, China, earthquake of 12 May, 2008. The mission, funded by the EPSRC, was carried out by the Centre for Risk in the Built Environment (CURBE), Department of Architecture, Cambridge University, in collaboration with the Faculty of Construction and Environment, Chongqing University, China.

The aim of the mission was to collect information on (1) the damage sustained by the earthquake and the main building types in the epicentral area (2) casualties, and (3) the progress of recovery. An important aspect was to collect this information in a manner that allows it to be linked to its geographical location on a map. All of the photographs and video footage, where possible, have been referenced to their location to provide a holistic view of the damage/recovery situation.

Prior to departure, pre- and post-event high-resolution satellite images of locations within the epicentral area such as Ying Xiu (one of the worst hit towns) were acquired. Damage assessment using these satellite images was carried out and verified against the damage documented in the photographs and video footage acquired during the field survey.

A building-by-building damage assessment was also carried out using the data acquired. This was uploaded onto the Cambridge University Earthquake Damage Database developed by Cambridge Architectural Research. The damage assessment was also on Virtual Disaster Viewer (VDV), hosted at University College London.

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