Unregulated construction a potential quake hazard for Peru’s capital

World Today

Unregulated construction a potential quake hazard for Peru's capital

The 7.1 magnitude earthquake that hit Mexico last week left more than 300 dead and over 40 missing, most of them in the capital city.

What would happen if a similar quake struck another seismically volatile city in Latin America?

CGTN’s Dan Collyns reports from Lima, Peru, on the potential dangers that capital is facing.

Lima, a sprawling city of some 10 million people, has quadrupled in size in recent decades.

Filled by migrants, it spread out and up into the foothills of the Andes mountains. It’s grown, for the most part, because newcomers built for themselves.

In fact, according to Peru’s Chamber of Construction, some 70 percent of Lima buildings are unregulated constructions. And that makes for some extraordinarily unsafe conditions.

But in the majority of cases, the buildings have not been inspected for earthquake resistance. Only three out of ten formal constructions are technically supervised, said the capital’s architects’ guild.

“We have very good laws about earthquake-resistant construction,” Miguel Estrada of the Peruvian Japanese Centre for Seismic Investigation said.

“However, they are not respected, not so much in the important high rise buildings but in homes. That’s where we have the problem of self-built constructions.”

What’s more, older buildings fall outside new structural regulations, which were updated after a 7.9 earthquake hit Peru a decade ago.

Parts of the city could count on a new early warning system, and engineers have mapped its most vulnerable neighborhoods.

Nonetheless, engineers are concerned.

“Here in Lima it would be bad,” Estrada said. “In Mexico City, it appeared they were better organized due to being hit hard in the past. If that happened in Peru with its hundreds of thousands of informal homes, we would have a big disaster.”

Buildings were gutted in Peru’s last big quake, which barely affected the capital. More than 500 people were killed, and next time, it could be much worse.