Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 9th 2013 Contents Excavators and other heavy equipment remain idle yesterday on the construction site of the Couva Children's Hospital, which is under scrutiny because of its close proximity to the earthquake
prone Central Range fault line. PHOTO: RISHI RAGOONATH
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The minister said it was a matter of concern,
but, "I have not got a letter in writing as yet,
it is just a matter of verbal. I do not want to
act on verbal information. I have not seen any-
thing. If it is so I will have to deal with it."
Moonilal, also speaking with the T&T
Guardian in a brief interview on Wednesday
night at Rienzi Complex, said: "We are in dis-
cussions with the technical people at Udecott
concerning that matter and by Monday we
should have a report on that matter."
Chairman of the National Building Code
Committee, Shyankaran Lalla, penned a letter
to Moonilal and Khan advising them of the
potential disaster if the hospital is constructed
at the present site.
In his letter, Lalla said: "Medical facilities
are essentially required, as a lifeline structure,
not as routine requirement, and must be fully
functional post disaster.
"Quakes are inevitable, but we can take action
now to limit the damage. Stronger building
codes and construction standards are one of
the most effective approaches for new devel-
When contacted yesterday, Lalla indicated
that he was advised of the matter by members
of the engineering and geosciences community
and it was brought to the attention of Moonilal,
who indicated that he would meet and hold
discussions with stakeholders.
Lalla, a resident of California, said the people
of Central welcomed the construction of a hos-
pital in their area, but asked: "Did the engineers
and technical advisers do a due diligence study
in evaluating the risk before the site was rec-
ommended for the construction of new build-
He said that there is a need for inter-agency
collaboration and consultation on key issues
to avoid such errors, in keeping with regulations
for earthquake-resistant construction, and "the
failure to do so will result in the collapse of the
building during an earthquake."
He said the Government should take note
that earthquakes which struck Mexico City in
1985 resulted in the destruction of two of the
most important hospitals---Juárez Hospital and
the General Hospital of Mexico, both of which
collapsed in the earthquakes wake.
Structural engineer Mark Francois expressed
concern that a site specific study may not have
been conducted on the proposed site, or the
seismic issue would have been detected ear-
"When you are building a facility of that
nature, particularly a hospital that needs to be
ready for use in terms of an earthquake, you
need to do a site specific study to find out if
there are any particular issues, seismic or oth-
erwise, especially in a seismic active country
like T&T," he said.
Francois said before contractors start the
design process they need to know that infor-
mation to determine what earthquake forces
to use in their design.
"We had a similar problem in Tobago with
the hospital. It was designed for seismic zone
two when it was in a higher zone---zone three
at the time," he said.
"I am concerned when international con-
tractors are involved in the design build process.
There is not necessarily a commitment to doing
what is best for us," Francois added.
The T&T Guardian obtained a copy of a pre-
liminary report from the Office of Disaster Pre-
paredness and Management (ODPM) and the
Seismic Research Centre on the decision to
construct the hospital in Couva.
The report stated: "The proposed site of the
hospital is located within 10 km of the Central
Range/Warm Springs (CR/WS) fault system,
an active geologic structure that poses very
high seismic risk to buildings and infrastructure
located in its vicinity."
According to the report, the CR/WS fault
system is estimated to be accommodating 65
per cent of the motion between the Caribbean
and the South American Plate.
"Using declassified seismic exploration data,
Soto and Mann have mapped offshore exten-
sions of the fault on either side of Trinidad
and have estimated that a full rupture will result
in an earthquake of magnitude 7.5," the report
The report also stated that the mere fact that
a critical facility could be established in the
manner of the Gran Couva children s hospital,
"points to a critical weakness in the public
institutions that are tasked to promulgate public
safety. There is no doubt that a seismic crisis
looms over Trinidad and Tobago and it will
grow insidiously if measures are not put in
place to address it."
"The decision to build the hospital so near
the CR/WS fault is not in keeping with the
thrust of sustainable development," the report
The report s findings have been supported
by Lutchman s statements. She explained that
researchers studying the Central Range Fault
believe that the fault line is "locked at this
This, she said, means that the fault may be
"accumulating strain energy and those who
have been doing research in that fault suggest
that it may have sufficient energy stored to
deliver an earthquake of a magnitude of seven
However, she hastened to add that the fault
may be also moving smoothly at this time.
"It s one of two things. It is either it is locked
and accumulating strain energy or it is moving
smoothly so it will not generate big earthquakes,
but the researchers who are working on this
are leaning towards that it is locked," she said.
The research, she said, is still ongoing to
access what is actually happening with that
Lutchman said while the hospital is an impor-
tant facility it must be constructed on a site
that is more suitable.
"We should be very careful with our con-
struction and in how we push forward our
development plans. The Couva Children s hos-
pital is a significant investment in the healthcare
of our country and more significantly our next
generation, and therefore we should be very
careful in how we move foward with this proj-
ect," she added.
Udecott report next week
Continued from Page A1
The Couva Children's Hospital Facebook
page states that the hospital will stand
on a 60-acre site on lands from the
former Caroni (1975) Limited. The
estimated cost of construction is US$150
million (TT$975 million). The expected
completion date for the hospital is March
The Children's Hospital will include a
multi-training centre for medicine,
nursing and pharmacology. It will be a
self-contained, centralised medical facility
equipped with the most modern and
high-end medical equipment. When
completed it will have: 230 beds, a burns
care unit, a central pharmacy, a children
and adult casualty clinic and helicopter
rooftop access for emergencies.
Moonilal on concern over hospital:
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