Two years after the 2007 PERU earthquake

13 Aug 2009

Two years ago, on 15 August, the Peruvian province of Ica was devastated by an earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale.  Almost 600 people died, over 1,000 people were injured and 75,000 families were affected. The region suffered extensive damage to buildings and infrastructure, and local and regional resources were quickly exhausted due to both the sheer scale of the disaster and the lack of investment in risk prevention and emergency response.

The Government declared a state of emergency and pleaded for international humanitarian assistance. UNDP coordinated the recovery efforts, which brought in national, international and UN relief workers. Two years later, UNDP remains in the province, working toward the overall strengthening of the local government’s ability to respond to and mitigate the effects of future disasters.

In some of the worst affected areas, 75 percent of buildings and infrastructure were damaged.  Lack of urban planning, demographic pressures caused by internal migration from the Andes to the coast and the unregistered – and improvised – construction of homes on dangerously soft soil contributed to the high rate of destruction.

As part of its long-term recovery response, UNDP is working with local authorities in the development and application of hazard maps in tandem with urban planning efforts, to ensure that buildings only get built in the safest places. A UNDP engineer and seismologist has completed an exhaustive study of soil and land quality in the affected areas. At the policy level, a battle for responsible building has been waged and won. Ica is now the only province in Peru where builders must undergo a risk assessment through the municipal government.

Earthquakes have afflicted people’s lives in Peru since the ancient civilizations of Pre -Columbian times. But their toll on people can be reduced through the promotion and development of a risk-conscious civil society and urban infrastructure.