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The first phase in the installation of seismic equipment is to be completed this week as Engineers from the Puerto Rico Strong Motion Programme at the University of Puerto Rico in Mayaguez are currently in the Territory.
Dr. Jose Martinez-Cruzado, Director of the Puerto Rico Strong Motion Programme at the Department of Civil Engineering and Surveying, is leading a team of engineers who will spend the week completing the installation at various locations on Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke and Tortola. They are also hoping to visit the fully established seismic station in The Settlement on Anegada during this trip.
The intrusion of salt water from the storm surge that impacted structures along the coast caused damage to the buildings and instrumentation previously installed in these locations.
Dr. Martinez-Cruzado, who is also a professor at the university, explained that it is important for the instruments to remain functional in these locations because of the seismic risk posed to the Virgin Islands region.
He said, “The strong motion instrumentation will help to accurately define the earthquake risks for this part of the region but more importantly it will help to determine how the ground, as well as the civil infrastructure, responds to seismic activity when it occurs.”
Dr. Martinez stated that this type of data will help to improve how we design and construct to minimise the impacts from earthquakes.
He further explained that the strong motion data being collected will assist the Virgin Islands in enhancing its building regulations and in determining what is needed to ensure the safe construction of buildings and critical infrastructure.
Supporting the team is Mr. Jasen Penn, Emergency Communications Manager at the Department of Disaster Management (DDM) who is leading the local project to restore emergency communications, hazard monitoring and early warning networks throughout the Territory.
Mr. Penn said that the visit by the team from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez is an important step in re-establishing the earthquake monitoring components of the networks.
He said, “It is important that we restore the networks considering the level of seismic activity that is common in this part of the region. Our relationship with the University over the past year has proven to be extremely beneficial to us.”
Mr. Penn also stated that the monitoring, upkeep and maintenance of the instrumentation is performed regularly by the Puerto Rico team of engineers and that they have been able to pass on their knowledge and skills to the staff at the DDM.
The Government of the Virgin Islands has already committed nearly $500,000 towards the re-establishment of the emergency communications, hazard monitoring and early warning equipment and further financial support is being provided through the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Rehabilitation and Reconstruction loan that has been provided to the Virgin Islands Government.
Dr. Martinez-Cruzado is accompanied by engineers Jaffet Martinez-Pagan and Eric Santana-Torres; they have been providing this level of support to the Virgin Islands since 2005.