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Strengthening Ecuador’s preparedness to tsunamis

Date: 19 February 2020

Located above the plate boundary where the Nazca Plate is subducting beneath the South American Plate, Northern Ecuador and Southern Colombia are at high risk of earthquakes and tsunamis.

During the course of the last century, two major earthquakes that triggered destructive tsunamis hit the two countries: the 1906 Ecuador-Colombia earthquake (Mw 8.8 of magnitude) and the 1979 Tumaco earthquake (Mw 8.2 of magnitude).

More recently, on 16 April 16 2016, a Mw 7.8 earthquake hit again the coast of Ecuador, killing more than 600 people. A tsunami alert was issued by the NOAA Pacific Tsunami Warning Center for Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Fiji, Panama and Peru.

Tsunami early warning is critical to protecting lives in the aftermath of an earthquake. To strengthen national preparedness to the risk of tsunami, the Government of Ecuador and UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) – which have a long-standing technical cooperation in place in this area – organized an Expert Meeting on 27-29 January in Guayaquil, on the Ecuadorian coast. The Meeting focused on tsunami sources, hazards, risk and associated uncertainties along the Colombia-Ecuador border.

Experts in the fields of seismology, geology, geodesy, sea level monitoring, sedimentology, tectonics, tsunami modelling, paleo-seismology and paleo-tsunami were consulted during the meeting in order to develop and explore potential tsunami hazard and credible scenarios for the area.

A significant part of the meeting was also dedicated to explore current research projects and potential collaborations. The commitment of all participants allowed for fruitful discussions whereby modelled tsunami inundation scenarios were brainstormed and visualized.

High importance was placed on the engagement of local communities: representatives from the local Gobiernos Autónomos Descentralizados (GAD) were invited to take part into a public awareness event hosted by the Oceanographic Institute of the Ecuadorian Navy (INOCAR) at the Navy Officers’ club in Guayaquil as part of the official programme of the Meeting.  

Useful links:

Video of the Meeting