Hot Off The Press 

Cincinnati, Ohio -- January 30, 1999

28 JANUARY 1999


1. The earthquake of 25 January hit a zone that spans 20 towns and villages and encompasses five Departments:  Quindio, Risaralda, Valle, Tolima and Caldas.   The hardest hit areas include the cities of Armenia and Calarc=E1 in the Department of Quindio, and the city of Pereira in the Department of Risaralda.

2.  According to the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Colombia, as of 27 January 1999, preliminary figures show that number of dead increased to over 900 (of whom 582 in the Department of Quindio), and the number of injured to approximately 3,400.

3.  The priority now goes to the relocation of displaced persons into temporary housing.  According to the Colombia Red Cross and UNICEF, approximately 200,000-250,000 people were left homeless.

4.  Since the earthquake of 25 January 1999, a total of 230 after-shocks have been reported, 42 of them greater than 2.0 on the Richter Scale, but they have decreased both in frequency and magnitude.=20 In addition, rainstorms have aggravated the situation of the homeless, and hampered the relief operations, in particular in the city of Armenia.

- Department of Quindio

5.  In Armenia, the city most affected, approximately, 60 per cent of the city's structures have been destroyed or damaged beyond repair (including the police station and the fire department). Only 20% of the debris has been cleared away, while in other cities an average 35% of the debris has been removed. Some hospitals and major clinics in Armenia (and in Pereira) have been severely affected by the earthquake, and some had to be evacuated.

6.  Initial reports by USAID/OFDA also indicate that two-thirds of Armenia is without water and electricity. In addition, roads in and around Armenia are severely damaged and the airport is closed to commercial flights.

7.  The centre of Armenia has been cordoned off and evacuation has been ordered. The first incidents of looting have been reported in Armenia.

8.  In Calarc, the second most affected city, an estimated 60 per cent of the buildings structures are also destroyed or damaged beyond repair. All public services are inoperable.  In the municipality of La Tebaida, the situation is critical with approximately 90 per cent of the houses destroyed.

- Department of Tolima

9.  Cajamarca is the most affected municipality in this Department. A total of 229 houses have been damaged and the population have been evacuated as a precautionary measure.  The city church and the Municipal Palace have been also damaged.

- Agriculture

10.  A preliminary analysis shows that approximately 60,000 hectares of coffee plantations have been directly or indirectly affected by the disaster. Coffee is one of the primary exports in Colombia.

Request for international assistance

11.  Through a circular to the bilateral and multilateral missions in Colombia, the Government of Colombia has formally requested international assistance for the victims of this earthquake. Main emergency requirements are as follows:

Non-perishable food
Blankets, sheets, mattresses, bed-stead
Kitchen  tools;  stoves; toilet sets (toothbrushes for adults and children, toothpaste, disposable dippers, toals, towels-paper and soap)
Tents (water-proof)
Medical supplies
Purifying water systems
Electric generators, lanterns and batteries
Portable latrines
Construction materials (corrugated zinc, plastic, nails, tools)

12. It should be stressed that most relief supplies requested can be bought locally.

13.  In-kind contributions should be addressed to the "FONDO NACIONAL DE CALMIDADES DE COLOMBIA"  to facilitate customs procedures. Donors should provide in advance pertinent information concerning type, quantity and value of the emergency goods, as well the flight details, date and port of entry.  Cash contributions should be made in US Dollars to "BANCAFE ACCOUNT IN CITY BANK NEW YORK - NUMBER ACCOUNT: 10922762 TO BE CREDITED TO ACCOUNT NUMBER:  021-99214-4 OF FIDUCIARIA LA PREVISORA S.A. FIDEICOMISO FONDO NACIONAL DE CALAMIDADES-DONACIONES.

14.  At this stage UNICEF estimates that at least US$500,000 will be needed to fund the following emergency response activities over the next three months:

- Distribution to families of Basic Survival Kits which include tents, blankets, kitchen utensils, water tanks, lamps and first-aid items.

- Deployment of 150 volunteers from the Colombian Movement of Children for Peace to help children overcome the trauma of this tragedy.

- Provision and distribution of education kits, school materials, notebooks and pencils to thousands of children whose education has been disrupted by the emergency.

15.  The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement today launched a preliminary appeal for 11.7 million Swiss Francs targeting 100,000 people. The funds are urgently needed by the Colombian Red Cross to provide a range of services and items such as:  shelter materials, including tents and plastic sheeting;  first aid supplies, blood transfusion units and water purification tablets;  clothing; food and kitchen utensils; generators and lanterns.  All the items can be purchased locally and donations are requested in cash.  A full appeal will be prepared over the coming week, following a detailed assessment of needs. This will also provide for longer term assistance, including reconstruction and rehabilitation.

National Response

16.  The President of Colombia announced that $13.3 million had been assigned for emergency aid.

International response - Updated contributions report attached (as of 28 January 1999).

In-country assessment and coordination activities

17.  OCHA has dispatched today a four-person United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) Team to Colombia, who will be assisting the Government and the United Nations Resident Coordinator in the assessment of the situation/relief needs and coordination of incoming international assistance, as appropriate.

18.  The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) today dispatched an emergency team to three districts in Colombia (Risaralda, Quindio and Valle del Cauca) to carry out a rapid assessment of the most urgent needs of children and women.  UNICEF is also evaluating the effect of the damage caused by the earthquake on health, nutrition and education projects in the region.

19.  The World Bank will send a mission next week to evaluate the damage to infrastructure, and is also trying to coordinate a future joint WB/IDB mission.


20.  OCHA is prepared to serve as a channel for cash contributions for the immediate relief needs detailed above. Funds channelled 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

21.  For coordination purposes, donors are requested to inform OCHA Geneva, as indicated blow, of relief missions, pledges or contributions and their corresponding values by item.=20

22.  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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