Arup civil engineer Anthony Peter, 26, landed in Sri Lanka last week to help with the reconstruction process. In the second part of a diary for Building, he looks at the task ahead.

The headquarters of my aid agency, Goal, is in a suburb of Colombo. The capital was affected only minimally by the tsunami and life appears fairly normal. However every taxi driver and restaurateur will tell you stories; many have friends or family who were directly affected.

The real damage starts a few kilometres south of the city: it forms a strip 200 m wide and 800 km long and includes more than 100,000 destroyed houses.

I will visit some of these areas next week to co-ordinate with our staff. Those affected are staying in camps at schools and community centres or staying with host families. We want life to return to normal as quickly as possible.

Our task is to co-ordinate, design and build 2500 semi-permanent shelters in 16 weeks. Even this is likely to use more than the entire country’s resources for wood and steel. What this shelter programme will offer to some of the 500,000 people now homeless is an opportunity to return to some degree of normality before permanent housing is completed - something expected to take up to four years.