I heard a reporter this morning tell the story of entering the capitol city and witness the damage of all the buildings they passed. Then, almost off hand, he said they passed the largest American Embassy building and saw that it was intact, "without any visible damage." That's all he said about it.
That was very interesting to me!
I have done some research during the day. Most buildings in the capitol have collapsed, including various embassies from around the world, a cathedral, the dictator's palace, etc. Most residential housing is rubble. The building techniques there involve concrete blocks (which some call cinder blocks) and corrugated tin roofs. In residential areas they have the tendency to stack these "houses" on top of each other. They are not strengthened with metal rods or concrete inside the walls. So when they collapse, not only do these houses crumble, but badly and concrete blocks are very deadly. Apparently there are few building codes or standards.
The very new US embassy compound is a 10-acre campus with various buildings. They moved into the buildings in 2009.
During the day the only indication I have been able to find of damage to any building is described as "slight." The surrounding wall also sustained "minor damage."
It is being used now to treat injured American citizens who have made their way there for safety in the now very dangerous city.
So, how come all the other buildings around have serious damage or have collapsed and our compound not?
We home inspectors often tell people that building codes are "minimum standards." And they are.
But they are STANDARDS! And a floor from which construction can be made better.
Now obviously our buildings there are made to handle a possible terrorist blast, and probably have bullet-proof windows, as well as other things. They are probably stronger than average buildings. But our commercial building codes are even more stringent than our residential codes and for sure our architecture, building techniques and materials worked to make our buildings there safe, even in the face of a 7.3 earthquake. For sure, the "code" was employed as the floor of the standards used to construct our buildings.
I find this to be significant and indicative of who we are as a society and a nation.
While we hope for the best for this beleaguered nation and people, this circumstance is obviously very, very bad. And again, because we are who we are as a society and a nation, we will certainly be the biggest fountain of aid.