Here is Miyamoto International's assessment of the damage in New Zealand, after the manitude 7.1 earthquake on Sept. 4. Miyamoto is a  seismic structural engineering firm that has a specialty in earthquake damage assessment.

Sept. 8, 2010  (Christchurch, New Zealand)—Miyamoto International’s earthquake investigation team arrived in Christchurch one day after the September 4, magnitude-7.1 Canterbury earthquake. The structural engineering team is investigating the extent and causes of damage, and is assisting people with critical post-earthquake needs.

The team has observed damage to historic downtown buildings and widespread soil liquefaction failures in Christchurch. The region’s emergency response was immediate and effective. Although aftershocks continue to rock the region, fortunately, no fatalities have been reported. However, there are many untold stories about how an earthquake of this magnitude affects the lives and economy of the people in New Zealand. Insurance experts estimate anywhere from $1 billion to $4 billion in insurance losses. The New Zealand Prime Minister’s early prediction indicates $1.4 billion in damage.

Numerous individuals, businesses, community organizations and educational institutions have been affected by this earthquake and will continue to be affected for months or years to come.

We would like to share the stories and the facts of this event so that everyone in seismic regions can prepare for inevitable earthquake disasters.

Jeff Crosier, S.E. for Miyamoto, shares what he has seen so far: “I met with a winemaker who owns a local winery located near the epicenter. He told me that he is grateful that his house, wife and two sons were all safe in the quake. The business did not fare as well. The winery lost water delivery and much of its wine inventory that was ready for shipment. His business will be impacted heavily.”

The team has visited several industrial buildings where they have witnessed the collapse of nonstructural elements shutting down businesses completely. “Our observations include the familiar site of damaged equipment and 100% destroyed inventory, which not only disrupts business operations significantly, but most certainly would have caused fatalities if the plants were operational during the earthquake,” states Crosier. At the same time that he acknowledges that New Zealand’s engineers and contractors support good engineering practices, he also adds, “We can’t forget that if the earthquake had struck when everyone was at work rather than at home, the result would have likely been much worse.”

The team's investigation journal is online.