Day 4 – Jautara town

First thing first – I have never seen a place that smashed up like the rural town of Jautara. Even news could not show the scale of destruction that we have seen. We spent most of the day walking down one road and back another. We counted the number of houses that were undamaged (fat zero here), green, yellow or red placarded. In many cases there was no sign as the building collapsed and was strewn across the ground.

The main house types are either stone masonry, which performed like one would expect a mud brick house to perform; unreinforced masonry was a close follow up in term of performance. Reinforced concrete frames with brick infill walls did marginally better, and actually most survivors are well detailed and built RC frame houses. I let the picture speak the story but sufficient to say that I am deeply affected by both the damage I have seen but also the resilience the people show. It is less than two weeks for the monsoon season and then for three months every road will be shut.

The camp we are staying is being reshuffled tomorrow after our departure to allow for some more long term plans to be forged. Most the people have been given or could afford are Indian made corrugated iron sheets. This will then somehow fastened to a timber frame and it should keep the worst of the weather out. I note that it regularly dumps here 100mm per day during monsoon season.

In the early afternoon we had an appointment with the magistrar engineer in his office and discussed his job and challenges ahead. It is amazing that the same issues that we in CHCH had to cope with are arising over here. The society and culture couldn’t be more different – yet there is commonality.

Despite us asking if there are any geotechnical issues (and yes there are many!) he only in closing comments mentioned this village some 15minutes away that was affected by a land slide. His second in command drew a map but eventually said he will come along.

After 15 minutes we were not anywhere near a land slide. Also the road, initially a track, deteriorated to a rutted mountain goat track that kept climbing. We drove for the next 1 hour through remote farming villages where not one, not one!, building was standing.

After some further interesting hairpin bends we arrived on top of a 250m high cliff. There were cracks in the cliff top that were most impressive and the cracking continued to about 25m back from the edge. After careful assessment and looking at all my site safe procedures I had a look over the cliff edge and noted that there were thousands and thousands of massive boulders that dropped and were laying all over the rice paddies.

At that time a young girl came around with her guardian and we got chatting as her hand was in plaster and she had some bruises that were healing. Turns out that she is the sole survivor of the buried village at the base of the cliff we were standing on. Brought the reality home and made for a sombre drive home.