Radix -The El Salvador earthquake

This page has information and links related specifically to the earthquake in El Salvador on Saturday 13th January 2001. There is also more on this (and other matters) on the Preliminary Questions page.

Go here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here for other RADIX material on this earthquake

bd14519_1.gif (968 bytes) Go here for: The roots to the crises in El Salvador by Sally O'Neill, Trocaire's Central America Director (ReliefWeb)

bd14519_1.gif (968 bytes) Go here for a link to ReliefWeb: Oxfam - El Salvador: How Long Will It Last?

bd14519_1.gif (968 bytes) Go here for a new page on the earthquake that occurred on 13th February 2001.

bd14519_1.gif (968 bytes) Go here for a new page on FUNDE - citizen's declaration

bd14519_1.gif (968 bytes) Go here for "Disasters and Human Rights: Lessons from El Salvador and India" by Ben Wisner in the Christian Science Monitor

bd14519_1.gif (968 bytes) Go here for an editorial from the Washington Office on Latin America

bd14519_1.gif (968 bytes) Go here for CISPES, "El Salvador Watch" No. 91, January-February 2001 (http://www.cispes.org/html/eswatch.html)

bd14519_1.gif (968 bytes) Go here for "El Salvador's capital still waiting for the next big quake" By Paul Jeffrey, Action by Churches Together (ACT), Geneva

bd14519_1.gif (968 bytes) Go here for "US POLICY MUST ADDRESS THE POLITICS OF DISASTER IN EL SALVADOR" By Daniel R. Faber

bd14519_1.gif (968 bytes) Go here: http://www.cispes.org/html/update.html#civil for a set of updates on El Salvador

bd14519_1.gif (968 bytes) Go here: ReliefWeb: El Salvador: WFP Executive Director makes fresh appeal - Update 19 Apr 2001

bd14519_1.gif (968 bytes) Go here: Risk and the neoliberal state by Ben Wisner

bd14519_1.gif (968 bytes) Go here: El Salvador 2001: Earthquake disaster and disaster preparedness in a tropical volcanic environment by Cinna Lomnitz and Sergio Rodríguez Elizararrás.

bd14519_1.gif (968 bytes) Go here: http://www.cispes.org/html/update.html for a set of updates on El Salvador

Guardian Weekly (vol 164/No. 4, p. 1 Thursday Jan 18 Wed, Nan 24, 2001):

"Residents had warned that construction work on the edge of the mountain range that runs along the southwest of San Salvador would affect the hill's stability. The developers took the municipal government to court and won a legal battle to build mansions on the top. Jose Luis Rodriguez, whose mother-in-law was one of the victims, said: "The earthquake was the work of God, but this, this was the work of man."

El Salvador, India, Buildings That Fall Down / IHT  THE BOSTON GLOBE

Natural disasters - floods, storms, earthquakes - are entirely outside human control. As lethal as those calamities can be, the greater tragedy is that their destructiveness is too often magnified by human failings. The massive tremor that shook western India is yet another cruel example of these failings, since most of the fatalities were the consequence of poorly constructed buildings toppling onto the victims. .The quake struck in a region not known for seismic activity. But several facts point to human error. Chief among them is the widespread disregard of building codes that are lax and out of date in the first place.

Many people must share the blame for such shortcomings. Politicians and bureaucrats failed to update and enforce building codes. Owners and contractors shaved commonsense standards of construction in the rush for profits from a rapidly expanding population. Architects and other professionals failed to warn of the risks associated with these practices.

Pleas of ignorance about the dangers are not to be trusted. Impressive among the buildings that survived were industrial and electric utility structures built to standards designed to protect them - and the investments they represented - from such disasters.

In 1999, 17,000 Turks perished in an earthquake in a region widely known to be seismically active. The political fallout was enormous, as Turks realized that they had been the victims of extremely shoddy construction made possible by gross failure of regulations. The problems become more lethal as populations rise and millions crowd densely in cities. India is only the latest chapter, not the final one. The Boston Globe.

Church agency criticises El Salvador's response to devastating earthquake

Ecumenical News International, Daily News Service, 25 January 2001

By Chris Herlinger

San Salvador, 25 January (ENI)??Relief agencies, including some linked to churches, have criticised the El Salvador government's response to the earthquake that devastated this Central American nation on 13 January, killing at least 700 people.

In a 22 January update on the effects of the disaster, the Lutheran World Federation's (LWF) office in El Salvador criticised the "inefficient, publicity?oriented, preferential and political manner in which bilateral government [aid] has been received, co?ordinated and distributed".

"While seismic aftershocks following the earthquake of 13 January have become less frequent, the political aftershocks promise to increase in intensity for some time to come," the report said.

There have been numerous complaints, both by aid groups and by survivors of the earthquake, that the national government, headed by the conservative ARENA party, has in some cases favoured its supporters in the distribution of assistance. This, observers said, was one of the unfortunate legacies of a bloody and polarising decade-long civil war that ended in 1992 and resulted in 75 000 deaths.

"The situation here is one of polarisation", said Rudelmar Bueno de Faria, LWF's representative in El Salvador. Because of understaffing and an inability to reach some communities, the government was relying on help from aid agencies.

Bueno de Faria told ENI that the LWF and other agencies had had good co?operation with the government. But, he said, despite "good intentions", the government had poor disaster?response systems in place. A week?and?a?half after the earthquake, some communities had not received any assistance. This had prompted the National Emergency Committee (COEN) to change distribution systems and begin channelling aid through local government bodies.

"The government cannot respond to a disaster of this magnitude," Bueno de Faria said.

The government has been sharply criticised for, among other things, its failure to implement a national emergency plan before the earthquake. The region is particularly susceptible to natural disasters. El Salvador experienced a devastating earthquake in 1986 that killed 1000 people, and in 1998 was one of the nations hit by Hurricane Mitch.

By most accounts, this month's earthquake hit a much bigger area than the 1986 quake, but the extent of the damage of the recent quake was not clear at first. At least 700 people have died, and as many as 1200 people are believed missing from a landslide that buried the suburban neighbourhood of Las Colinas, just west of the capital, San Salvador.

As is often the case in a large?scale emergency, fatality and damage numbers have varied widely, but the government itself has issued contradictory statistics. At one point, COEN and President Francisco Flores offered two different sets of statistics about those displaced. Flores said the figure was 750 000 (12 per cent of El Salvador's population), while COEN gave the figure of 573 609. The LWF office said in its update that the subsequent confusion, coupled with the other problems, meant aid agencies had to work in a "troubling political context".

The initial response had put additional pressure on aid agencies to "join in solidarity with those suffering the effects of the tragedy", the LWF report said, "doing whatever is possible to diminish their suffering and help them re?establish dignified living conditions".

The LWF office here is the coordinating agency of Action by Churches Together (ACT), an international aid network established by the LWF and the World Council of Churches. Through the LWF office ACT has given assistance to 14 550 families in 10 of the country's 19 regions. ACT has support from many of the Salvadorean churches, including the Lutheran Synod, Baptist, Episcopal (Anglican) and Reformed churches, and other agencies.

The earthquake occurred at a trying moment for El Salvador. Though officially at peace for almost a decade, the country is suffering from rising crime and continuing economic uncertainty. The Flores government recently announced it was discarding the national currency in favour of the US dollar in a bid to stabilise the national economy and attract foreign investment. But the action proved unpopular as it was seen as a surrender to neo-liberal economic policies dictated by the United States and international lending institutions.

Protests had been scheduled for the day of the earthquake, and Salvadoreans had begun sarcastically referring to "dollarisation" as one of the recent national disasters.

Now, observers said, the earthquake was calling much into question, and the future remained more uncertain than ever, particularly for the nation's poor who have been heavily affected by the natural disaster.

"The poor, as always, face an uncertain future after an eventlike this," said Jose Rodriguez, of the Anglican?based ecumenical group CREDHO. He pointed out that widespread poverty made a country much more susceptible to the effects of a natural disaster. "The challenge is: how do we make sense out of it and how do we now focus attention on the issue of poverty?" he told ENI. "Unfortunately, natural disasters are one of the few times that any attention is paid to the poor."

"The nation's wounds are being reopened," said J. Pablo Obregon, assistant Latin American director for the Division for Global Mission of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

El Salvador's churches, particularly the "historic" Protestant churches, had themselves experienced tensions and conflicts in recent years, and church representatives hoped that the earthquake might at least provide a common cause for the churches, as the civil war had more than a decade ago.

"There were strong leaders in El Salvador during past crises", Oregon told ENI as he visited a centre for displaced people run by the Salvadorean Lutheran Synod. "Now we need to use that same type of leadership and prepare for something new: a long?term project of rebuilding for the country".

Chris Herlinger, ENI's US correspondent, is also information officer of the Church World Service Emergency Program in New York. He visited El Salvador on behalf of ACT.

All articles (c) Ecumenical News International. Reproduction permitted only by media subscribers and
provided ENI is acknowledged as the source.

Ecumenical News International
PO Box 2100
CH - 1211 Geneva 2

Tel: (41-22) 791 6087/6515
Fax: (41-22) 788 7244


CISPES Political up date on earthquake from CISPES (Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador): http://www.cispes.org 19-1-01

The Earthquake Engineering Research Institute SPECIAL EARTHQUAKE REPORT - January 2001: http://www.eeri.org/Reconn/ElSalvador0101/elsalvador0101.html

EQE International:  http://www.eqe.com/revamp/ElSalvEQ2001.htm

Guardian online, Ben Wisner: http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4128181,00.html

IFRC "Salvador: food, water and shelter are immediate needs 17 January 2001": http://www.ifrc.org/docs/news/01/011701/

Natural Hazards Information Center: http://www.Colorado.EDU/hazards/

Debby Sapir, International Herald Tribune: "The Same Mistakes After Another Central American Calamity" http://www.iht.com/articles/7991.html

Go here for a site on Health and Disasters in Central America -
Salud y Desastres en Centroamerica:

USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance http://www.usaid.gov/hum_response/ofda/

USGS National Earthquake Information Center: http://neic.usgs.gov/neis/bulletin/01_EVENTS/010113173329/010113173329.HTML


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