Swiss Re in Co-op Agreement with GEM Foundation for Latin America Quake Risk

April 24, 2013

The Swiss Re Foundation and the GEM Foundation announced a “three-year collaborative project to create the first-ever comprehensive picture of seismic risk in Latin America to incorporate social and economic factors.”

Swiss Re said: “International and local experts will assess potential physical damage as well as the broader community consequences of earthquakes in this rapidly developing region.” Its Foundation is contributing €1 million ($1.3 million] to the project, which will create “continent-wide earthquake models and hazard maps and will also particularly focus on Lima, Peru (a city of more than 7.7 million inhabitants) and Quito, Ecuador (population 1.4 million). The risk assessment will be carried out by scientists and engineers throughout the subcontinent involving various scientific disciplines.”

The bulletin noted that the project is being announced at the WEF Latin America Forum in Lima, Peru, which is taking place from 23 to 25 April and brings together more than 600 representatives from business, governments and civil society to discuss the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for Latin America.

Michel M. Liès, Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Swiss Re Foundation and Group CEO of Swiss Re, said: “Earthquakes are a clear and ever present risk in Latin America. Between 1977 and 2012, these natural disasters nearly claimed 80,000 lives and caused economic losses of more than $37 billion. As a reinsurer, our job is to enable individuals, companies and in some cases governments to rebound quickly after a catastrophe. I am therefore excited to see that under the umbrella of Swiss Re Foundation and the GEM Foundation, local researchers from all relevant disciplines will work together to better understand the full impact of an earthquake on such areas as metropolitan Lima or Quito.

“Making these cities safer requires effective seismic risk management, which in turn relies on a better understanding of key risk factors and on enhanced public risk awareness. The project aims to improve both,” he added.

Rui Pinho, Secretary General of the GEM Foundation, commented: “All GEM partners have a common mission: to provide organizations and people with tools and resources for transparent assessment of earthquake risk anywhere in the world. We are very pleased that the Swiss Re Foundation is financing this important regional project in South America, because it is at the local scale where scientists, decision-makers, organizations and individuals can make a difference and work together to make nations and cities safer from earthquakes.”

The project aims to identify and estimate the compounding social and economic factors that increase the physical damage of an earthquake and decrease the ability of the local populations to cope with the aftereffects of an event. The project focuses on what such a disaster would mean for major cities with its high population and its dense built-up areas and infrastructure. For this, the project will work with specific scenarios.

Swiss Re explained that it has “two overarching goals”:
• The collection of information and development of tools that support decision-making related to seismic risk management in Latin American countries and
• Building on local research capabilities for the development of regional earthquake risk models yielding hazard maps and city specific damage scenarios.

The project effectively started in January 2013 and is expected to be finished by the end of 2015.

Source: Swiss Re

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