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Minimising the impact of earthquakes and tsunami in Viet Nam

June 2009 - from NewZAID newsletter No. 58

Scientists from GNS Science (New Zealand) and the Institute of Geophysics (Viet Nam) work on the project.
Scientists from GNS Science (New Zealand) and the Institute of Geophysics (Viet Nam) work on the project.

With support from NZAID, GNS Science, a Crown research institute, has recently completed a two-year project that aims to minimise the impact of earthquakes and tsunamis in Viet Nam. Such natural hazard events, although infrequent, leave developing communities particularly vulnerable to poverty.

Through the project, funded by NZAID’s Asia Development Assistance Facility, GNS Science worked with its partner organisation in Viet Nam, the Institute of Geophysics (IGP), to build the IGP’s capacity to complete a tsunami hazard assessment for the 3,400km coast line of Viet Nam, as well as a ‘case-study’ tsunami vulnerability assessment for a part of the coast that is rapidly developing.

Viet Nam’s long coast line and low lying regions make it vulnerable to tsunami from the South China Sea, in particular from the Philippines.

Viet Nam’s earthquake activity is lower than New Zealand’s, however its cities are densely populated, and the building design and city infrastructure standards vary greatly. A moderate sized earthquake centred near a heavily populated area has the potential to cause widespread damage and loss of life.

Two major initiatives were undertaken as part of the project. Firstly, with support from GNS Science, the IGP scientists completed a pilot tsunami risk assessment of Nha Trang City, a coastal tourist destination that is one of many areas vulnerable to tsunami. A tsunami hazard model was also developed for the entire Vietnamese coast in this phase of the work.

Secondly, GNS Science led the design and initiation of a national earthquake monitoring network and operations centre in Viet Nam. The initiative is based on the New Zealand GeoNet project, which is recognised as a world-leading project. Installation of the network in Viet Nam will gradually occur over the next five years.

Scientists from the IGP spent a total of four months at GNS Science headquarters in Lower Hutt, Wellington, learning a wide range of skills and techniques in earth science and hazard assessment. In turn, GNS scientists also provided on-site training in Viet Nam.

Workshops were held on issues such as how to study local, regional and distant faults; how to assess coastal and offshore landslides and volcanoes; how to get population data from census records; how to assess the vulnerability of residential and industrial buildings; and how to use all of this information to make regional and national-scale tsunami hazard and risk assessments.

As a result of the successful GNS Science partnership, the IGP has now gained the support of the Viet Nam Government to continue the development of earthquake monitoring capabilities.

GNS Science hopes to continue collaborating with the IGP and has indicated that a number of areas in Viet Nam would benefit from more detailed study. These include the 1,600km-long Red River Fault, a major fault line that passes the capital city of Hanoi. The fault line presents an unknown earthquake risk to the eight million inhabitants of the city.

For more information about this project Email Noel Trustrum


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