Nepal quake gives Thai engineers lessons on protecting heritage

One of the engineer team Amrit Charitha shows the clay brick which used to be a part of the collapsed house on the press conference yesterday at Engineering Institute of Thailand.

A team of seven engineers visited Nepal from April 29 to May 1 as a pioneer engineering help effort.

The team had a mission to survey damage suffered by Thai government buildings and advised Nepalese authorities on how to rescue trapped people inside a ruin, clear the debris and rebuild the city.

After the first mission, Associate Professor Siriwat Chaichana, secretary-general of the Engineering Institute of Thailand (EIT), said the severe damage to Nepalese historic sites and old houses was because their brick structures could not resist the powerful shake.

"Most of the collapsed buildings in Nepal were built of clay bricks which were not strong enough to resist the earthquake.

The structures of many historic sites were also prone to the shake, such as tall towers and heavy roofs," Siriwat explained.

He suggested that Thai historic buildings have a similar weakness and encouraged a study on how to strengthen the structure of these valuable buildings, as part of a long-term earthquake prevention plan for Thailand.

EIT vice-president Dr Ekasit Limsuwan supported the idea as he learned how traditional brick buildings had suffered heavy damage in the Nepalese quake, compared with the modern concrete buildings which did not suffer serious damage.

"From our survey in Nepal, the Thai consulate building received little damage but the building is still operational and some of the concrete residence buildings for Thai officers have also escaped damaged," Ekasit said.

He said his team was the first engineering group sent to Nepal. However, the current priority of Nepalese authorities was to rescue trapped earthquake victims.

The Thai engineering team will continue to co-operate with Nepal to inspect the damage to surviving buildings and suggest how to build earthquake-proof buildings.

In related news, the National News Bureau of Thailand quoted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) as saying that the Royal Thai Air Force would be sending two aircraft to Nepal late yesterday to deliver another batch of emergency supplies from Thailand.

No additional Thai citizens have requested the MFA's assistance via the Thai embassy in Kathmandu for their return to the Kingdom, according to MFA.

The Ministry of Public Health will also send a second team of medical personnel to Nepal tomorrow to help quake survivors needing medical attention, the news bureau said.

They will take the place of the first team, which is currently stationed at a makeshift hospital in Sipaghat.

The second group will ensure patients' personal hygiene as well as the well-being of their mental health, while helping the country restore its healthcare system.