Fig. 1 Map of the hypocenter and intensity of the earthquake

Pisco earthquake in Peru

This wiki page will discuss background information about the earthquake occurred in the city of Pisco in Peru, in the year of 2007. Some of the points that will it will focus on are the damages caused by the earthquake, the alert of a tsunami several minutes after the earthquake, its impact on humans, the reconstruction efforts after the earthquake that include the role of the government and a personal opinion about whether the government should have done more. It will then conclude with future expectations.


On August 15, 2007 an earthquake magnitude 8.0 struck the coast of central Peru at 6:40 p.m. (local time in Peru), at about 25 miles west-northwest of Chincha Alta and about 90 miles south-southeast of the capital, Lima (see Figure 1). More specifically, the earthquake was located between the Nazca and South American plates. These convergent plates move at a speed of 7-8 cm per year. In this case, the type of fault was a thrust fault, that resulted in the subduction of the Nazca plate. The Pisco earthquake occured near the source of three past earthquakes
of similar magnitude. Precisely, south of the earthquake on October 1974 of magnitude 8.1 and north of the earthquakes of mangnitude 7.7 on 1942 and 1996. The number of fatalities sums up to at least 514 and at least 1,090 people injured. The cities that were most affected were Chincha Alta (pop.of 90,000), Ica (pop. of 120,000) and Pisco (pop. of 90,000).


Many buildings and houses were destroyed during the earthquake, including hospitals, schools and a prison in Chincha. One of the walls of the prison collapsed and more than 500 prisoners escaped. Most of these buildings had concrete frames and attached to them were brick masonry. However, most of the damaged structures were houses that were made of adobe. In fact, about 80 percent of the houses in Chincha Alta, Ica and Pisco altogether, were either completely destroyed or severly damaged. Moreover, about 30 percent of the total deaths in Pisco took place in two of the buildings that were commonly visited by people of the area. One of these places is the San Clemente church, which is the largest church in the city. People were listening to mass, when the earthquake hit. Figure 1.1 shows the San Clemente church after the Pisco earthquake. The other
Fig 1.1 Demolishing the remnants of the San Clemente Church after the earthquake
place is the Embassy Hotel, which was a five story building, at that time. Electrical power was out in most areas for the first three days and in some areas up to two weeks. Furthermore, there was evidence of liquefaction due to landslides, large cracks in the road caused by lateral spreading in the soil, and damage of underground infrastructure. Underground water and sewer pipelines were damaged. Specifically, more than 100 underground water and pipelines were destroyed. Port and wharf facilities were also damaged. The Port of San Martin was the port that was the most significantly damaged. Some highways were also affected. The Pan American highway, which runs through Peru from north to south and parallel to coast line, was the main road that led to the source of the epicenter. The part of the Pan American highway that used to pass through the southern part of Peru was damaged, due in great part to liquefaction and lateral spreading. Figure 1.2 shows the damage of the
Fig 1.2 Evidence of Liquefaction on the Pan American highway
Pan American highway. The liquefaction induced soil movements that pushed foundations out of place, which causedone of the major bridges, the Huamani bridge along the Pan American highway, to lose support. Traffic was disrupted the first five hours after the earthquake but two days later people were allowed to transit the highway. This delayed the arrival of aid. Two weeks after the earthquake, the highway was fixed, however, the Huamani bridge was not.


A few minutes after the earthquake, there was an alert for a tsunami. However, it was not possible to record the tsunami because the near-by tide gauge was not functioning due to the earthquake. Therefore, Coast Guards were in charge of informing and helping evacuate the people, but the news did not get to all. Residents of Lagunilla who had felt the earthquake did not know about the alert for a tsunami. As a result, three of the seven people that were near shore at the time were pulled in by it, luckily they were rescued after being pulled in a few kilometers. Fortunately, this tsunami did not have any major consequences, since it mostly took place in an isolated desert. A part of flat land in Lagunilla was flooded and in Pisco, boats were moved from their places by the force of the tsunami.

Impact on Humans

The burial of family members was difficult for many, not only psychologically but also economically. In Pisco, people were expected to take their own caskets to bury their dead. However, for some people it was almost imposible to obtain one and it was not possible for suppliers to provide a casket to all those who needed one. In fact, many people had not other choice but to bury their dead with only a blanket covering their bodies. Those who were injured, were taken to hospitals in Lima because the hospitals in Pisco were destroyed. Temporary shelters were constructed for the people to stay in, while their homes were reconstructed. Six shelter camps were established in Pisco, by September 9. Not all of the camps had the same services or number of occupants. The largest shelter camp was called the Albergue Bolognesi. It was occupied by 470 families and about 3,000 people. Although this camp only had 30 latrines, there were no showers. However, this camp received help from several organizations, such as the Peruvian military, the Ministry of Health, the Brigada Medica Cubana, and the Salvation Army. Yet there were still other camps that provided their occupants with a meal once a day, due to food shortages. People had to accomodate to their circumstances.

Reconstruction Efforts

The country's president, Alan Garcia, announced that the reconstruction phase was going to be brief. Indeed, people thought that this would be the case because easy access to the city was possible and national and local governments had the economic means. International aid from (its neighbor contries), as well as from the United States, Canada, Japan, Spain, Italy, France and Europe. Europe contributed with about $2.7 million. However, reconstruction has been taking longer than expected. In fact, two years after the earthquake significant improvements have not been seen. About 40,000 people continue to live in temporary shelters and tents. Only about 25% of reestablished housing has been completed in Pisco, one of the worst affected areas. In other areas, where the government seems to have forgotten about, the people take the tasks of rebuilding in their own hands. One of these places is a small village named Mensias. It is located north of Pisco, more specifically in the city of Chincha, which is located north of Pisco. In Mensias, women and men under the supervision of engineers, help to reconstruct houses (see figure 1.3). The construction of these homes was made possible by the development charity
Care along
Fig. 1.3 People in the village of Mensias rebuilding homes
Fig. 1.3 People in the village of Mensias rebuilding homes
with 13 other non-government organizations and
a government agency that contributed 20,000 adobe bricks.
The number of homes already completed with the aid of the first two organization is 900 homes. It is expected that by the end of 2010 2,500 more homes will be completed. However, if we take into consideration the rest of the villages and cities that were affected by the earthquake, it can be said that this is not enough help for these people. The insufficient efforts made by the government frustrated and angered people to the point that in August 16, 2009 unconformed people gathered and obstructed a highway near Pisco to protests against the government's lack of action to reconstruct the cities affected by the Pisco earthquake. The people denounced that the president Alan Garcia and his government were liars because they had promised a rapid reconstruction of the affected areas a couple of days after the earthquake. The people also blame the inneficiency of bureaucracy and corruption, from the governments part, for the slow pace of the reconstruction. Moreover, it cannot be said that the government has not done anything at all to help the people from the devastation. In fact, the government issued donations or housing bonds of $2,000 to 28,000 families who previously owned a home or other type of property and lost it during the earthquake in order to help them buy materials for reconstruction. Grants of about $5,000 were also issued for each family. However, the government only issued this aid to people who had the titles of their property to prove that they were the owners. Unfortunately, less than a fifth of property owners who lost their property qualified for this aid, according to the Pisco city mayor. The government also created a public-private fund for the reconstruction period after an earthquake known as FORSUR (Fund for the Reconstruction of the South), after they concluded that the regional government alone would not be able to handle the cost. During 2008, FORSUR collected a total of $80 million. However, there have also been problems with this fund since its obligations were not clearly stated in the beginning. Some of its problems include that it focuses on reconstructing infrastructure instead of houses, it has not accomplished much and it is slow, since in order to receive this aid agencies and companies have to come up with a plan on how they will used the money and then present it to FORSUR and finally wait for their approval. In April of 2009, the government also passed a supreme law that enforces the construction of reinforced adobe houses in the rural areas of Peru based on the criticism received for the actions taken on reconstruction during the Pisco earthquake. It was estimated that about $600 would be used for each family based on this project.

Should the Government Have Done More?

Even though the government has been working in the reconstruction of the Pisco earthquake they have obviously not have done enough because two years after the earthquake many people continue to live in temporary shelters and tents. It should also be noted that many of these people live under inhumane conditions. Dan Collyns from BBC News reported that Margarita Ramirez, a mother of a four-year child who lived in a shelter, said that insects and rats where common in the shelter she lived. The government should have done more, starting by organizing themselves better. The governments lack of organization limited them from doing more for the affected communities. The priest Alfonso, of the community of Pisco, stated that central and regional governments were competing for power, instead of joining forces and organizing themselves. It has also been said that in the early part of the year 2007, new mayors were established in office. Their inexperience also led to greater delays in reconstruction. The government should have opted to have the people who held prior positions to come back and join the new mayors to help out. The government's distrubution of money to people who lost their homes has not been very effective, since only a few owners receive compensation. In this case, only those who have their property titles, as mentioned above. Furthermore, many people who have obtained this aid have already reconstructed their homes without using earthquake resistant materials. The government needs to get directly involved in the reconstruction phase, instead of just giving money away. They should contact engineers and other professsionals who have experience on building earthquake-resistant homes and other structures. Some funds, like the FORSUR, have also proved to not be very effective because a proposal has to be filed in and approved before receiving any money. The government should have not only collected money but also made sure that it would be distributed evenly and efficiently to speed up the reconstruction phase.

Future Expectations

Hopefully, the of lack of reconstruction and insufficient assistance after the Pisco earthquake will serve other countries and governments as an example to make better plans in case of an earthquake. Not only during an earthquake, but also after it. Its also necessary for the governments to be well organized and make clear the role each of its members will serve, in case of a disaster. A well organized government will eventually serve its people more efficiently and on time to prevent further calamities. It is also hoped that the goverment of Peru take more seriously the claims of its people and act more efficiently to meet their demands of reconstruction. People cannot continue to live in temporary shelters under inhumane conditions.


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