Arup engineer Anthony Peter, 26, working in Sri Lanka with aid agency Goal, has moved to Ampara from Colombo, where his team constructed their first temporary shelters. In the third part of a diary for Building, he relates his recent experiences.

In Ampara, construction is split across the Muslim and Tamil areas. Hindu labour cannot be used in Muslim areas and vice versa. Some politically affiliated local non-governmental organisations are working in adjacent sites to Goal, so we need to proceed cautiously.

We hope to complete the shelters and camps in the next two months. To allow people to repair their own houses we will shortly begin a separate programme to provide packs of construction materials. Teams of local staff will help us assess both the social and engineering aspects of structural damage. Logistically this may be complicated, as there are 4000 damaged houses in the area. Construction of permanent housing still cannot begin here. The government is developing a plan to rehouse people away from the coastline and there is unlikely to be any immediate resolution to this.

It has been frustrating at times. We use local engineers to manage the sites, but there is such a demand for construction in the country that good engineers are hard to find. The supply of timber is difficult for the same reasons, so we have to transport some of it up to 200 km. We are beginning to scale up the operation, but it will probably be a couple more weeks before we are at full speed.