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NZ Earthquake Tech. Protects Indian Hospital

New Zealand Earthquake Engineering Technology Protects Indian Hospital

Wellington, February 5, 2004 -- A new state of the art hospital in India that uses earthquake protection building techniques developed in New Zealand has attracted widespread interest around India and is expected to lead to further opportunities for New Zealand’s earthquake engineering expertise.

The new 300-bed Bhuj hospital in earthquake prone Gujarat province is the first building in India to use base isolation technology - a building protection system developed in New Zealand and increasingly used in earthquake prone areas of the world, particularly Japan, China and the USA. The same technology is used to protect Parliament Buildings and Te Papa in New Zealand.

The hospital has just been officially opened by Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee amidst a flurry of media and industry interest around India.

Bhuj, a city of 100,000 people, was largely destroyed during the devastating Gujarat earthquake of January 2001 in which more than 14,000 people were killed. The new hospital replaces one that collapsed during the quake, killing nearly 200 patients and staff.

The expertise for the hospital project was provided by members of the Earthquake Engineering New Zealand cluster – a group of companies including Beca Group, Robinson Seismic Ltd, Dunning Thornton Consultants and Holmes Consulting Group.

The cluster includes engineers and scientists who are recognised as world leaders in earthquake protection engineering. It was established in Wellington with assistance from Positively Wellington Business, and receives ongoing support from New Zealand Trade and Enterprise to provide earthquake engineering solutions to countries around the world.

New Zealand is a world leader in earthquake protection technology and in particular base isolation technology, a system invented by cluster member Dr Bill Robinson. The technology uses lead-rubber bearings to isolate and protect buildings, bridges and other structures during earthquakes.

Internationally renowned seismic expert Dr Richard Sharpe of Beca Group said the opening of the hospital and the technology used attracted widespread interest in India and has paved the way for further potential business. He was working on a project elsewhere in India at the time of the 2001 Gujarat earthquake.

“The speed and quality of building design and construction is a tribute to the Indian design team led by architect Uday Pattanayak of EFN Ribeiro Associates and construction firm Larsen & Toubro,” he said. “These firms have been excellent to work with. Larsen & Toubro is the largest construction company in India.”

The cluster is investigating follow up project opportunities with its Indian partners worth several millions of dollars involving both base isolation building projects and disaster risk management projects in Gujarat and other parts of areas in India.

“This technology is particularly suitable for the construction styles of developing countries as it is very robust and provides a high level of protection. It is especially relevant for hospitals and other emergency service buildings that will be needed after an earthquake,” says Dr Richard Sharpe.

The opening of the new earthquake resistant Bhuj District Hospital is a particularly satisfying achievement for members of the Wellington-based Earthquake Engineering NZ business cluster, says EENZ Chairman David Hopkins. He expressed appreciation for the New Zealand Government contribution to this project and the collaborative team approach used on the Bhuj hospital project.

The New Zealand Government contributed $ 150,000 from NZAID to the cost of the project base-isolation feasibility study and design work as part of the initial disaster recovery stage. The Indian Prime Minister’s Relief Fund funded the hospital construction, including the cost of the Robinson Seismic Ltd bearings. The NZ High Commission and NZ Trade & Enterprise have assisted with valuable liaison support from their New Delhi office.

New Zealand further contributed to the hospital project by donating two ambulances to the people of Bhuj, including one provided with funding from the Gujarat community in New Zealand. These were handed over during opening day by Earthquake Engineering NZ Cluster Facilitator Graeme Carroll, who attended the hospital opening on behalf of the cluster.

“The new Bhuj District Hospital built with New Zealand base isolation technology has become a symbol of reconstruction that has followed the terrible January 2001 earthquake,” said Mr Carroll.

“It is an important and very visible part of a wider major reconstruction and rehabilitation process that includes a strong emphasis on developing multi-hazard resistant construction and disaster management training to better equip the community to withstand future earthquakes and other natural disasters.”

ENDS

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