Hot Off The Press 

Cincinnati, Ohio -- February 20, 1999

1.  According to the UN Resident Coordinator in Bogota, 95 aftershocks occurred during the period 25 January to 12 February 1999, many with an intensity of between 3 and 4 on the Richter scale. Minor earthquakes have occurred in other departments such as: Saragoza (Antioqu=EDa), Guayabe (Meta) and Los Santos (Santander).

2.  Latest official figures show that 1,171 people died and 4,765 were injured following the earthquake of 25 January 1999.

3.  Although much progress has been achieved, the region is still in an emergency situation: there are not enough shelters, public services are not completely restored, demolition of houses and cleaning up of debris remain a major need.  Urban reconstruction will take at least a year and a half, and during this period it will be necessary to offer shelter facilities to more than 30,000 families.

4.  Currently, 67,539 people are living in shelters, as shown in the following table:

1 - ARMENIA1           13                                   9,800
2 - PUAO                     10                                   4,365
3 - CORDOBA           15                                   3,700
4 - CALARCA            15                                   1,842
5 - LA TEBAIDA        25                                 22,674
6 - BUENAVISTA      07                                      450
7 - BARCELONA                                              2,850
8 - CIRCASIA             17                                 13,300
9 - QUIMBAYA            4                                   4,558
10 - MONTENEGRO  17                                   4,000

National Response

5. According to Government figures, the reconstruction of public infrastructure in Pereira will cost approximately US$6.4 million (first estimate). Initial estimates show that approximately US$1.5 billion will be needed for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the affected areas (Pereira, Armenia and 18 municipalities of the coffee-growing area).

6. Special Congress sessions will analyze the National Development Plan with particular reference to the area affected by the earthquake. During these sessions, financial resources are expected to be allocated for reconstruction.

7. The President of Colombia has signed the initial work orders for the Pacific coast railway project. These will generate approximately 6,900 jobs benefiting the Departments of Valle del Cauca, Risaralda and Quindio.

8. The Government announced special credit lines for the export companies in the affected municipalities. The Colombian central authorities are also promoting a solidarity mechanism that consists of the "adoption" of affected communities by other municipalities in Colombia, which will provide technical and financial assistance for their recovery and reconstruction. Bogot=E1 has adopted the municipalities of Cordoba, Buenavista and Finlandia (Quindio).

9. The Local Emergency Committees have been strengthened, with Governors and Mayors coordinating their actions. In this context, the National Institute for Disaster Prevention and Response has formed an operative group with the Colombian Institute for Family Welfare and the Social Solidarity Network.

10. The National Federation of Coffee Growers has been playing an important role in the reconstruction efforts. It made available US$ 20,000,000 for the reconstruction of the rural areas in the coffee-growing region. The reconstruction activities will also include rural tourism, one of the main activities of the 1,500 coffee farms affected by the earthquake.

11. The reconstruction of the coffee-growing region will reactivate the construction and employment sectors. According to the Director of the National Planning Department, the demand for manual labor created by the reconstruction process will provide the first incentive towards the reactivation of the construction industry. The reconstruction could generate 70,000 direct and indirect jobs per semester. In Armenia alone, an estimated 30,000 direct jobs could be generated.

International response

12. The latest data on contributions, as reported to OCHA, can be accessed by clicking on FINANCIAL TRACKING on the OCHA Internet Website - Reliefweb, at:

13. The UNDAC team, deployed to Colombia on 29 January, ended its mission on 15 February 1999. During its stay in Colombia, the UNDAC Team carried out several field missions to the disaster areas and assisted national and local authorities in coordination of relief activities. The UNDAC Team also assisted the UN-Disaster Management Team (DMT) in the coordination of activities undertaken by the different UN Agencies, national institutions and NGOs present at the disaster area.

14. The United Nations Resident Coordinator in Bogota, has been working closely with Colombian authorities, acting as a link between the Government and the agencies of the UN System. In cooperation with several of these agencies, the UN Resident Coordinator?s Office organized five field-missions to the disaster area. Coordination Offices (UNDP, UNICEF and WFP) continue to function in the cities of Pereira and Armenia.

15. WFP : As mentioned in previous OCHA Situation Reports, on 15 February 1999, WFP started a six-month US$4.4 million emergency operation aiming at maintaining the nutritional status of the most vulnerable victims of the earthquake, such as children, pregnant women and nursing mothers. Food assistance will be directed mainly towards rural populations affected by the earthquake. WFP will support the local transport, storage and handling costs to delivery ports. WFP is working closely with the Colombian Institute for Family Welfare and the Colombian Federation of Coffee Growers and is coordinating its activities with UNICEF and with FAO through its project PACOFOR. WFP food aid is being used by UNICEF and FAO in support of some of their activities.

16. UNICEF: Continues to give priority to the psychosocial recovery of children affected by the earthquake. In Pereira, 150 young persons were trained and 2,500 children were assisted. In Armenia a similar programme started on 15 February 1999, with another 150 young persons being trained to help 7,500 children.

17. UNICEF is giving equal attention to school rehabilitation. Approximately 4,500 educational kits are available to support the resumption of classes in the next 20 days. 15,000 additional kits will be bought for the same purpose.

18. UNICEF has also ordered 250 tents (family size) for the Municipality of Barcelona, benefiting approximately 1,250 people. Local authorities intend to build a "Citadel" to accommodate people who are living by the roadside. Around this citadel, the authorities will install latrines, water supply systems and community kitchens.

19. PAHO/WHO: PAHO is providing short and medium term technical assistance concerning the rehabilitation of health services, information and supply systems, strengthening of prevention strategies and epidemiological surveillance.

20. PAHO has been cooperating in the design and implementation of the SUMA system (Relief Supplies Management) at both central and local levels. A SUMA workshop was organized for representatives of municipalities, NGO's and multilateral organizations with headquarters established in the Department of Quindio.

21. UNHCR: Since 26 January 1999, a UNHCR expert has been working with the Regional Emergency Committee in the Department of Quindio and the Ministry of Interior. The expert is also working in coordination with the UN Agencies present in the region. UNHCR has donated 3,000 plastic tents, benefiting approximately 15,000 persons. This donation has been channelled through the Red de Solidaridad Social.

22. HABITAT: An expert from its Regional Office in Brazil was deployed to Colombia, to assist the national authorities in the field of displaced population and urban reconstruction. Another expert, financed by UNDP, is working on urban reconstruction matters.

23. UNFPA, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, is providing technical assistance to regional and local authorities in the areas of Family Planning, contraceptive supply, prevention of Sexually Transmissible Diseases (STD) and violence in overcrowded places. UNFPA national consultants will be providing primary health services to the population living in temporary shelters in Armenia and five other small towns.

24. OCHA is prepared to serve as a channel for cash contributions for the immediate relief needs. Funds channeled through OCHA will be spent in coordination with the relevant organizations of the UN system and OCHA will provide written confirmation of their use. Funds should be transferred to OCHA account No. CO-590.160.1 at the UBS AG, PO Box 2770, CH-1211 Geneva 2, with reference: OCHA - Colombia - Earthquake.

25. For coordination purposes, donors are requested to inform OCHA Geneva, as indicated below, of relief missions, pledges or contributions and their corresponding values by item.

26. This Situation Report and further information on ongoing emergencies are also available on the OCHA Internet Website at:

Telephone number: + 41-22-917-1234
In case of emergency only: + 41 22 917 2010
Desk Officers: Mr. Erik Haegglund, direct tel: + 41-22-917-3299
and Mr. Carlos Monteiro-Pereira, direct tel: +41-22-917-1383
Contact person for the media: Ms. Elena Ponomareva, direct
Telex 41 42 42 ocha ch
Fax: + 41 22 917 0023
E-mail: [email protected]

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Colombia: Earthquake