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Policy brief: Disaster Risks to Infrastructure in El Salvador

El Salvador is a small and densely populated country in Central America that is highly vulnerable to natural hazards. The devastating impacts of Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and two earthquakes in 2001 catapulted the need for disaster risk management to the national policy agenda. Assessing disaster risks to infrastructure is an essential step in minimizing the effects of disasters and in protecting people, nature and economic assets from loss and damage should infrastructure fail.

By request from the Government of El Salvador, the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) funded a national multi-hazard study on existing infrastructure of strategic, economic and social importance for the country. Based on historic observations, the study modelled almost 100 different hazard scenarios (landslides, flooding, tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanic hazards) and the physical vulnerability of major roads, highway bridges, transmission towers, electrical sub-stations, water & sewer infrastructure, schools, and healthcare facilities.

Some relevant results:

  • The total long term average annual loss to the infrastructure included in the analysis is estimated to be US$35.5 million,
  • This represents 0.41% of the total value of infrastructure stock.
  • Earthquakes and floods represent nearly 80% of expected losses.
  • Among infrastructure types and considering annual average losses alone, schools are most at risk.

Besides undertaking further, detailed risk assessments, recommended strategies to build on results of this study are as follows: (1) use initial risk estimates to set priorities for infrastructure reinforcements and retrofits; (2) ensure national-level results inform local planning; (3) broaden risk metrics beyond infrastructure replacement costs; (4) analyze the influence of climate change on vulnerability to flooding, landslide risk, and tsunamis; and (5) nurture and sustain collaboration across ministries responsible for infrastructure

This publication is part of the products of the project AALA0010.