Similar to his firm’s response to the earthquakes in Italy and China in recent years, Kit Miyamoto and a team of earthquake engineers are providing structural engineering expertise and support for the Pan American Development Foundation disaster relief efforts in Haiti. 

Last week, the government of Haiti embarked upon a major national effort to assess 100,000 structures before the arrival of the hurricane season. It is a race against time to get citizens off of streets and flood prone camps into their undamaged homes.

West Sacramento-based Miyamoto International is partnering with the Haitian government, United Nations Office of Project Services (UNOPS) and the World Bank to provide technical oversight in the assessment program.
 The work is also in collaboration with the U.S. Joint Task Force and Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) engineers.

Miyamoto has been in Port au Prince since the days immediately following the massive quake in January, working with private and public institutions to assist in rebuilding Haiti.

Posting on his website, Miyamoto says that he sees “a lot of poverty and tragedy every day. We need to find safe shelter for the millions of citizens living on the streets. They and their tents will be defenseless against a strong hurricane.”

While in Haiti, Miyamoto’s expert teams are also working on several major recovery initiatives. For the Ministry of Public Works project with UNOPS, Miyamoto experts adapted the ATC-20 technical assessment platform to the Haitian context, and trained and lead 200-plus Haitian engineers in damage assessments. This national effort has resulted in completing over 1,700 building inspections per day. To date, over 30,000 structures have been assessed to international standards.

In addition to damage assessment, Miyamoto is developing repair and retrofit standards for the quake-damaged country. It is also training the next generation of Haiti earthquake engineers. 

A recent online report from the field finds Miyamoto and a group of engineers touring damage in Zone 4 of the Delmas 32 district:

“We’re accomplishing what we intended, but in an improvised way. As agreed, though, all divisions are staying close together for security reasons. I see engineers inputting the building data into their PDAs. Others are painting structures with a stencil and red, yellow or green paint. 

“With the PDA data, we can keep track of where we’ve been, as well as making for easy comparisons to other recon teams’ results. Before we arrived, several U.S. civilian engineers are also acting as a recon team. They provided a statistical benchmark for us. With that benchmark, our MI experts on the ground and our Haitian engineers, the quality assurance program is pretty tight.

“I enter a narrow alley with an EU representative who wants to observe the operation. We’re followed by a couple of engineers and Guilaine (a Haitian PADF human rights attorney and translator for Miyamoto’s team). We are always with a couple of Haitians. This is something Guilaine insists on.

“She says, ‘Kidnapping of internationals for large sums is real here. Foreigners should not be alone anywhere. If something happens to you, these Haitians will fight to the death for you.’ The EU rep is listening intently to her. After all, a couple of doctors from an NGO were recently kidnapped and held for a couple of days. Security concerns consistently slow down the reconstruction effort.

“In the gray alley, we come across a little clearing where a half-collapsed two-story building is leaning toward us. The place is eerily quiet and calm. There is a mother and two little girls washing dishes under the shadow of the building. ‘It’s very dangerous here,’ I tell them. ‘You should move on.’ Guilaine translates and our voices echo. The mother looks at us and slowly collects the half-washed dishes and moves on…

“We’re done in a few hours, with our dedicated and efficient engineers leading the way. By 3 p.m. we’ve tagged almost 1,600 objects in zones 4 and 6 (with other division teams). We’re drenched, dirty and exhausted. We hop in our vans and head back to the Ministry.

“It’s a great team. We trust and respect our Haitian colleagues, and I think they feel the same. Our goal is to assess 100,000 structures by the end of May. I think we can do it with this team.”