Swiss Re Foundation partners with the GEM to mitigate earthquake risk in Latin America

Zurich, 23 April - The Swiss Re Foundation and the GEM Foundation are pleased to announce a three-year collaborative project to create the first-ever comprehensive picture of seismic risk in Latin America to incorporate social and economic factors. International and local experts will assess potential physical damage as well as the broader community consequences of earthquakes in this rapidly developing region.

The Swiss Re Foundation is contributing 1 million Euros (USD 1.31 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 7.7million 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 project is 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, says: "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 USD 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."

He further noted, "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."

Rui Pinho, Secretary General of the GEM Foundation, commented, “All GEM partners have a common mission: to provide organisations 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, organisations 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 after-effects 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.

The project 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
  • 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.

Download full press release in English (PDF)

Download full press release in Spanish (PDF)

Mensaje Carolina Hess sobre la asociación de Swiss Re Foundation con GEM (MP3)

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Notes to editors:

Swiss Re Foundation
Swiss Re Foundation is a non-profit organisation committed to care and concern for society and the environment. Launched in 2012 by global re/insurer Swiss Re, the Foundation aims to make people more resilient towards natural hazards, climate change, population growth, water scarcity and pandemics, along with other challenges to society's security, health and prosperity. It also supports community projects and employee volunteering in locations where Swiss Re has offices.

About GEM (Global Earthquake Model) Foundation
The non-profit and independent GEM Foundation drives the collaborative GEM effort. Renowned organisations from the public and private sector, as well as key international organisations in the field combine their strengths and needs for a common purpose. Initiated by the Global Science Forum of the Organization for the Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the GEM Foundation started its operations in 2009. Through global projects, open-source IT development and collaborations with more than 10 regions, hundreds of leading experts are collaboratively developing global datasets, best practice, open tools and models for seismic hazard and risk assessment. All contributions are being integrated into the web-based OpenQuake Platform that – together with other resources – will allow a full spectrum of stakeholders worldwide from 2014 onwards to calculate, model, investigate and visualise earthquake risk, capture new data and to share findings for joint learning.


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