South America


The Seismic Risk in South America (SARA) project took off in January 2013.

The three-year project aims to calculate hazard and risk, and to estimate the compounding social and economic factors that increase the physical damage and decrease the post-event capacities of populations to respond to and recover from damaging earthquake events in South America, by involving local experts from throughout the region.

The project also focuses on the risk to cities from selected scenarios, to acknowledge the importance that such studies have on the communication of risk. Lima and Quito have been selected for the city scenarios.

The project is carried out with experts and institutions from the regions, who can build on what is being developed within the context of GEM: more uniform data sets and methodologies than have ever been attempted, using GEM’s new open source software, the OpenQuake Engine and other OpenQuake tools.


The project has 2 overarching goals:

To obtain input for seismic risk management: collaboratively developing tools and information to support decisions in South American countries related to seismic risk management.

To build upon local research capabilities: working with regional scientists who posses a wealth of local knowledge and to produce products and visualizations. These outputs can then empower them as well as disaster managers and other professionals to act as advocates for seismic safety in their governments and communities.


The project mainly revolves around 4 modules: hazard, physical vulnerability and exposure, social vulnerability and city scenarios. The modules will be carried out by a variety of experts/scientists from the region, in collaboration with the project coordinators and where relevant the GEM Secretariat.

Seismic Hazard

  • Building a seismic hazard model for the region
    • Archive of seismic catalogues including historical and instrumental seismicity
    • Database of GPS data, and harmonised database with shallow active faults and subduction interface faults
    • Evaluation and testing of GMPEs in the region
  • Hazard calculations and maps

Physical Vulnerability / Exposure

  • Basic reports describing common residential building typologies
  • Detailed reports of selected building typologies
  • Development of national and sub-national residential building exposure databases (with information on the statistical distribution of the building typologies, building counts and replacement costs)
  • Review of existing fragility and vulnerability functions for common residential building typologies in South America
  • Development of fragility and vulnerability functions

Socio-Economic Vulnerability and Resilience

  • Socio-economic indicators database for the region
  • Social vulnerability index report and database
  • Disaster resilience index report and database
  • Economic vulnerability index report and database
  • Validation, sensitivity, and uncertainty testing and update of indices

 City Scenarios

  • City scenario reports (buildings and infrastructure)
  • Regional risk report for buildings
  • Workshops on risk mitigation with local stakeholders


  • The SARA project is funded by the SwissRe Foundation.
  • Antonio Goméz, Jairo Varacel, Herbert Rendon and Hugo Yepez are currently involved in shaping and implementing the programme in the region.


The Servicio Geológico Colombiano (Colombian Geological Survey, Bogota) will host an initial meeting of the hazard component of SARA from 3rd-6th December. Partners and participants from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela will meet to discuss the main objectives of the SARA hazard component, including:

  • collection and implementation of existing PSHA models,
  • active fault catalogue,
  • seismicity occurrence model for the subduction along the Pacific coast,
  • historical and instrumental catalogues,
  • GPS and tectonics,
  • ground motion prediction equations for hazard analysis in South America, and
  • development of new PSHA model for South America.

More details and information will be posted here, as soon as all activities and tasks have been defined. Currently the project coordinators in South America (together with the GEM Secretariat) are working with the local community in order to finalise the project plan.