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Superficial damage shuts quake hospitals

Non-structural damage to a hospital caused it to be unfit for use after the 6.3 magnitude earthquake that hit central Italy earlier this month, British engineers said this week.  

The Earthquake Engineering Field Investigation team said that San Salvadore hospital in Aquila was evacuated because earthquake damage to infill panels made it unfit for use.       

“The hospital was peculiar, in that the concrete structure was not damaged, but it had extensive infill damage, which precludes its use, due to hygiene issues,” said team leader Tizianna Rossetto.Damage to external infill walls can  allow bacteria to enter hospital buildings.         

“This performance in the case of an earthquake is suitable for residential buildings but not for hospitals,” said Rossetto. 

The team of nine found that  modern concrete buildings performed better than the more traditional masonry buildings.  But some modern structures did fail as a result of  poor construction or the strength of the quake.        

“In central Aquila, buildings of better quality collapsed which was possibly due to large shaking near the epicentre,” she said.   

“There were a few cases of severe or partial collapse where we think there may have been poor reinforcing details, use of smooth reinforcing bars, a lack of transverse reinforcement or bad joint detailing.         

“These buildings tended to date from the 1970s on the cusp of new codes coming in.” 

Nearly 300 people died in the earthquake and thousands were left homeless.             

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