Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Latin America and the Caribbean
Newsletter ISDR Inform - Latin America and the Caribbean
The Colombian Earthquake of January 1999: Lessons for Seismic Disaster
Prevention and Response
On 25 January 1999, at 1:19 p.m. local time, a 6.2ML earthquake shook the Colombian Midwest, a traditional coffee-growing area. Severe damages were reported in Armenia (270,000 inhabitants), the capital of Quindio Department, as well as in the capital of Risaralda Department, Pereira (380,000 inhabitants). The death toll rose to 1,230. Hospitals tended to 5,300 patients with various types of injuries, and it is estimated that 200,000 people lost their home or workplace. With close to 50,000 buildings damaged or destroyed, the impact of the quake may well have reached 1.5 percent of Colombias GNP.
Most of the damage involved older buildings that had not been reinforced and had been built before the passing, in 1984, of the first building code to take into account seismic hazards as a result of the 1983 PopayŠn earthquake.
The Armenia tremors also caused a significant number of landslides affecting the roads that connect that city with the rest of the country.
From the moment the first rumblings of the disaster were detected by the National Seismological Network, the National Disaster Prevention and Response System went into action. This decentralized inter-institutional system was established after the Armero del Ruiz volcanic eruption of 1985. Its value became clear after the magnitude of the quake overwhelmed both the Local and the Regional Disaster Prevention and Response Committees.
The Armenia disaster taught many lessons about seismic engineering and disaster prevention.
To contact the author of the previous report, please write to Omar D. Cardona, Director, Centro de Estudios sobre Desastres y Riesgos (CEDERI), Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia, at: email@example.com