Bay Area engineer surveys destruction in Haiti

Bay Area structural engineer Eduardo Fierro is in Haiti; he believes lack of building codes contributed to the massive destruction there. (Eduardo Fierro)

January 15, 2010 7:20:34 PM PST
One Bay Area engineer now in Haiti is weighing in on the lack of building codes people believe contributed to the massive destruction in Haiti during Tuesday's 7.0 magnitude earthquake near Port-au-Prince.

"There was a lot of unreinforced masonry," structural engineer Eduardo Fierro said during a Skype interview from the Dominican Republic.

Fierro is with the Berkeley consulting firm Bertero, Fierro, Perry. He traveled to Haiti immediately after the quake to assess the damage as part of an international team of engineers that responds after major earthquakes.

"It's really building after building, with people inside," Fierro said of Port Au Prince. "I went to a school where there were 90 children trapped inside, some of them talking, many of them dead."

Oakland's Antoine Bellot blames the lack of building codes for much of the disaster. Bellot started the Bellot Idovia Foundation to build sustainable communities in his homeland, particularly on the small island of Latoti.

Bellot was in Haiti just last month, building new structures and improving old ones. "Those houses were not really built properly," he said. "And also, the material they use, they do not use enough steel or enough cement, so they kind of crumble."

Bellot is trying to raise funds to return to Haiti to continue his work and help with the rebuilding.

Fierro told ABC7, "This is the chance, this is the chance; we can go and tell the people, 'If you don't do things properly, then things like that will happen again.'"