Sometimes, as engineers, we aren’t called upon to build cities and shapes lives – but also to repair lives and help communities recover from disasters. Mr Filip Kirazov, Senior Engineer at Robert Bird Group Europe, has recently done just that in a mission in Beirut.
Mr Kirazov was deployed to Beirut with UK Charity Search and Rescue Assistance In Disasters (SARAID) to support the disaster response to the Port of Beirut explosion on 4 Aug. He was there to support the damage assessment coordination of international and local engineers; advise on damage assessment methodology and processes, and pass on disaster response experience to local engineers and authorities.
He undertook structural inspections of damaged buildings and assisted in setting up the Disaster Assessment Coordination Cell (DACC), and delivering a workshop specifically tailored to the emergency situation in Beirut.
His involvement started two years ago when he joined SARAID (Search and Rescue Assistance in Disasters), a British charity dedicated to trying to save the lives of innocent victims of disaster (saraid.org). “During this time,” he said, “I have been training monthly with the team to become an Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Technician and Engineer.” In December 2019, he had his first deployment to Albania to respond to a 6.4 magnitude earthquake in Durres. Beirut was his second deployment.
Mr Kirazov landed in Beirut five days after the 4 Aug explosion and spent four days there. His team had arrived four days before and had setup a Disaster Assessment Coordination Cell (DACC), a centre where they were coordinating all the international engineers left over from the urban search and rescue (USAR) phase. This included sectorising the damaged neighbourhoods of Beirut, pairing Lebanese and international engineers in teams to undertake assessments together, briefing the teams on the assessment methodology, collating the information at the end of the day and passing it on to the Lebanese authorities.
His late arrival meant that he had to immediately start working on their “exit strategy”, which consisted of:
- Undertaking damage assessments on the ground initially to understand the methods used and identify opportunities for improving the data collection process and consistency of damage appraisal;
- Developing a workshop to deliver to the Lebanese engineers based on the experience gained on the ground and support from the SARAID engineers back in the UK, who had setup an Engineering Support Team to assist the team in-country;
- Delivering the workshop to effectively handover the DACC to the Lebanese engineers and authorities.
On arrival in Beirut, he was shocked to see the sheer extent of destruction, the explosion had affected areas as far as 7km from the Port of Beirut, where the explosion took place. “An even stronger impression on me was the reaction of the people who had immediately started safeguarding hazardous buildings, streets and pavements,” he recalled.
“They had created a support network for each other, where people whose homes remained habitable offered them to others that had to be evacuated. What I found really inspiring is that, despite the large diversity of the Lebanese people, the Beirut is consciously put their differences aside, to help each other and get through the tragedy together.”
Mr Kirazov said the main reason why he joined SARAID is giving back, he is very dedicated and serious about this work. He said: “I’ve been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to get a good education and subsequently join the engineering profession. With my set of skills, I can achieve some of the most positive impact by helping disaster affected communities.”
SARAID relies on donations for all its training and deployment activities. Donations can be made here