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UEL engineer makes global waves with his tsunami research

uel structural engineering students

UEL research makes a difference all over the world 

Dr Ravindra Jayaratne, a University of East London senior lecturer in civil engineering, recently embarked on a global tour with the aim of protecting cities and civilians from the devastation triggered by tsunamis.
 
The expectation that academic and industry research will provide solutions to society’s major problems is particularly felt in the field of natural disasters – a need that spurred Dr Jayaratne (pictured front right) to travel to Dubai, Sri Lanka, Japan, and Indonesia this summer.

His research tour, “Disaster Prevention Mechanisms against Tsunamis and Storm Surges,” focused closely on the lessons learnt from the 2011 Tohoku tsunami and earthquake.
 
It was the biggest earthquake ever to hit Japan, and the fourth most powerful earthquake in the world since modern record-keeping began in 1900.
 
The National Police Agency of Japan estimated there were nearly 16,000 deaths, 2,562 people missing, and 152 injured.
 
Apart from the cost in human lives, severe damage was caused to Japan’s infrastructure, including commercial and fishery ports, coastal defences, water, electricity, oil and gas supplies, homes and buildings, and roads. The most widely reported of these was the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, which resulted in a nuclear meltdown.
 
“The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami shed light on the massively destructive power of such catastrophic events,” explained Dr Jayaratne, who has published over 25 book chapters, journal papers and conference articles in the field.
 
“It was obvious that coastal protection infrastructure, including many well-engineered reinforced seawalls and dikes, and armoured and concrete breakwaters, suffered extensive damage from both events.”
 
Dr Jayaratne carried out a range of post-tsunami field surveys of the damaged coastal defences, with colleagues from the Waseda University, and Tokyo University, Japan.
 
“We found more than 50 per cent of the coastal structures failed due to the 2011 tsunami as a result of the tsunami overflow washing away soil (scour) at the landward toe.”
 
The findings have led him to develop new mathematical models and structural solutions for the future resilience, which he is now keen to share and develop. 
 
During his tour, Dr Jayaratne addressed figures from the Dubai Municipality, Institution of Engineers Sri Lanka, and Lanka Hydraulic Institute, one of the leading coastal engineering consulting firms in South East Asia, the Department of Coast Conservation of the Government of Sri Lanka, and the prefectural governments of Japan, including earthquake and tsunami-prone Fukushima, Miyagi, and Kanagawa prefectures.

While in Indonesia, he set up a new tsunami research project with Dr Hendra Achiari of Bandung Institute of Technology. He explained that the 2004 tsunami was triggered off the coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra,
Dr Jayaratne now plans to develop his work at the high-tech Hydraulics Research Laboratory at University of Ottawa, Canada, which is led by Professor Ioan Nistor.