Field missions: Quindio in Colombia 1999
At 13.19 local time on Monday 25 January 1999, an earthquake of magnitude 6.2Mw (USGS) hit the cities of Armenia and Pereira and the surrounding area in the main coffee growing region of Colombia. It caused 1,171 deaths and approximately 5,000 serious injuries, and left up to 250,000 people homeless.
The earthquake was among the most devastating recorded in the history of the country, although many much larger magnitude events have occurred. The combination of a shallow focus, the proximity to the city of Armenia, local ground conditions and poor construction contributed to the scale of the disaster. The Colombian seismic design code only came into legislation in 1984, so many of the buildings in the area predated it. Also, a large proportion of the population of the area is poor, living in non-engineered buildings, for which there is very little regulation. The worst devastation was in the poor housing areas in the south of Armenia, which were often on low quality land, as well as being inadequately constructed. However, the buildings designed in accordance with the code generally performed well structurally, although there was widespread damage to masonry infill panels and other non-structural components.
Another notable feature of the event was the poor initial management of the disaster. There was severe disruption to services and land transport links following the earthquake, and distribution of emergency supplies was slow. A breakdown of law and order followed in some areas, with looting and violence occurring. This was partly due to the desperation of some of the affected people, but greatly inflamed by troublemakers descending on the area from elsewhere in the country. The army was called in to restore order and it was over a week after the earthquake that the situation started to improve in some areas.
More information may be found in:
- The Quindžo, Colombia Earthquake of 25 January 1999 (Field report by EEFIT)