In addition to rail lines, the tsunami also damaged ports, seawalls and breakwaters.
(Photo by NMCB 7)

In late January, the American Society of Civil Engineers sent three teams to the tsunami disaster zone to conduct damage assessments. This is their second report from the field.

FEB. 1--Today, the American Society of Civil Engineer’s (ASCE) Coasts, Oceans, Ports and Rivers Institute (COPRI) and Technical Council on Lifeline and Earthquake Engineering (TCLEE) teams met to discuss logistics of our trip through the tsunami-damaged regions of Sri Lanka. After our morning meeting, Peter Yin and I met with various Sri Lankan officials, to whom we were introduced by our new colleague Mr. Ranjit Galappatti (aka "Galaps"), a consultant and former director of Lanka Hydraulics.

Our first meeting was with Don Wotten of Scott Wilson Consultants, which has been charged with designing the proposed new expansion of the Port of Colombo. The design includes a new harbor basin protected by rubble mound dikes and breakwaters that will feature 3,600 meters of container ship berths. The work will require large-scale dredging and reclamation. The project will, together with the existing container terminals at Colombo, serve to meet forecasted containerized freight – predominated by transshipment activities to the Asian subcontinent –through 2025.

Next, we met with Technical Director S. Liyanage and Deputy Chief Engineer Janaka Kurukulasuriya of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA), which manages ports throughout the country. They explained that the Port of Colombo had limited tsunami damage. The two to three meter tsunami wave overtopped a few of the wharves and the 150-year-old breakwater, and there was some minor damage to a few buildings. The SLPA administration building ground floor was flooded with 0.5 meters of standing water.

As the receding tsunami waters created large currents, a relatively small container ship lost navigational control in the harbor entrance. The ship struck and turned around the tip of one of the breakwaters, and then ran aground. All in all, damage was minor; things could have been much worse but the tsunami wave that hit the port was relatively small. Liyanage and Kurukulasuriya also confirmed that the Port of Galle was hit by a four to five meter tsunami wave that picked up a dredge and placed it on top of one of the wharves.

Our final meeting was with the Coastal Resources Management Project (CRMP), an endeavor that will provide shore protection to the south and western coasts of Sri Lanka. We met with Project Director Nissanka Perera, who according to Galaps, is the engineer most familiar with coastal projects in Sri Lanka. We also met with Dr. Hanno Scheffer, team leader of CRMP’s coastal stabilization efforts. Dr. Sheffer has just completed a survey of damages to coastal revetments, seawalls and breakwaters in the southern areas extending from Colombo on the west coast to Hambantota near the southeast corner of Sri Lanka. The survey has several important findings, including the observation that the lee side of coastal seawalls and breakwaters were damaged rather than the front faces.

Tomorrow, we head out with the TCLEE team members on a trip from Colombo to Hambantota, which will cover both old and new ground for Yin and me.

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