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SARA Project

South American Risk Assessment (SARA)

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South America incorporates some of the most seismically active regions on the planet, where the South American subduction zone generates the forces to create the Andes Mountains and drives the occurrence of destructive earthquakes across Chile, western Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Venezuela.

In turn, the high vulnerability of many structures and the high population density of the main cities are factors that contribute to the region’s high seismic risk. In the last two decades alone, over 3,000 fatalities have been reported, and the economic losses have exceeded 30 billion USD (EM-DAT,

While expert capabilities exist in these countries to assess earthquake risk, the information, infrastructure, tools, and collaboration networks necessary to develop comprehensive knowledge among scientists and engineers and to move this knowledge into the mainstream of disaster risk reduction activities has been lacking.


The approach is to bring together international best practice tools and methodologies with local expertise and knowledge needed to establish local ownership and define risk assessment objectives and priorities. GEM Foundation combined these elements and focused on developing local capacities across sectors (academic, public and private), across technical disciplines (e.g., hazard, risk, IT), and through the implementation of disaster risk reduction policies and programs.

The program of capacity development was initiated in 2013 with the South America Risk Assessment (SARA) Project to bring experts, institutions, and stakeholders from 7 countries to develop a regional assessment of earthquake hazard and risk. GEM provided its OpenQuake earthquake hazard and risk analysis software and other tools and databases freely and openly to all participants. More than 50 of the region’s experts across 17 institutions collaborated to produce critical data sets, develop common approaches, and develop open-source tools for both data collection and interpretation.



The SARA Project, completed in December 2015, provided the foundation for formal and informal collaborations at many levels and for many purposes. GEM subsequently developed formal partnerships across public and private sectors (e.g., SuraAmerica Insurance, the Geological Survey of Colombia, EcoPetrol), academic partnerships (e.g., EAFIT Univ, Univ del Norte, Univ Catolica Chile), non-profits (e.g., OSSO), and most recently, with municipal governments (Cali, Colombia and Quito, Ecuador), for urban risk assessments. (complete list)


The project has been successfully implemented in the Andean Region (Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina) for the assessment of earthquake risk at the national and regional scales, and to the cities of Quito, Ecuador; Medellin, Colombia; and Cali, Colombia.

Funding partner

The SARA project is funded by the Swiss Re Foundation, a separate legal entity of Swiss Re Group.


2013 - 2015

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