Mexico has a long history of, and broad exposure to, natural disasters. Due to its diverse geography, Mexico is exposed to a wide variety of geological and hydro-meteorological hazards. Earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, hurricanes, wildfires, floods, landslides, and droughts can all impact the country; between 1970 and 2009, approximately 60 million people were affected by natural disasters in Mexico. The country is ranked as one of the world’s 30 most exposed countries to three or more types of natural hazards. Located along the “fire belt” where 80 percent of the world’s seismic activity occurs, Mexico is at high risk of geological disasters. On average, Mexico experiences more than 90 earthquakes per year with a magnitude of 4.0 or above on the Richter scale (FONDEN 2011). Almost all of Mexico’s territory, including the capital, Mexico City, is highly exposed to earthquake risk. Mexico City is also located within the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt, which contains nine active volcanoes. Furthermore, tsunami represents an important threat along Mexico’s Pacific coasts.
Hydro-meteorological disasters occur with high frequency in Mexico. These events range from severe tropical cyclones along both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts to heavy rainfall events occurring throughout the territory to high intensity storms, among others. Drought is also a significant concern, particularly for Mexico’s agricultural sector. Other hazards with notable impacts on the country include forest fires and landslides. Exposure to the abovementioned natural hazards in Mexico is on the rise – while Mexico’s economic development improved the quality of life for its citizens, growth of Mexico’s asset base and population translate into increased exposure to natural hazards. As of 2009, 77.5 percent of the population of nearly 110 million lived in urban areas – by 2050, this figure is expected to rise to nearly 90 percent of a projected 130 million people. With a tendency for lower-income populations to reside in more hazard prone locations, these figures convey the potential for the significantly increased exposure of an already vulnerable population. Mexico City, the fifth largest urban agglomeration in the world, represents the highest concentration of risk in Latin America and continues to grow. States such as Veracruz, Jalisco, and Puebla, among others, also have pockets of high population density and face significant potential disaster losses.
To address its vulnerability to adverse natural events, Mexico has developed a comprehensive institutional approach to natural disasters. The catalyst to comprehensive disaster risk management was the Mexico City earthquake of 1985. The earthquake killed 6,000 people, injured 30,000 others and left a total of 150,000 victims. Total direct losses exceeded US$4 billion.
Mexico established the National Civil Protection System (SINAPROC) in 1986 as the main mechanism for interagency coordination of disaster efforts. SINAPROC is responsible for mitigating societal loss and essential functions caused by disasters. Responsibility for SINAPROC lies with the Interior Ministry. Also within the Ministry of the Interior, the National Center for Disaster Prevention (CENAPRED) was established. CENAPRED is an institution that bridges the gap between academic researchers and government by channeling research applications developed by university researchers to the Ministry of the Interior.
Despite developing an institutional approach to disasters, all levels of government in Mexico were still regularly required to reallocate planed capital expenditures towards financing post-disaster reconstruction efforts. Budget reallocations created delays and scaling back of investment programs, while also slowing deployment of funds for recovery efforts. In response, in 1994, legislation was passed to require federal, state and municipal assets to be privately insured. In 1996, the government created the Fund for Natural Disasters in the Ministry of Finance (FONDEN). FONDEN is an instrument for the coordination of intergovernmental and inter-institutional entities to quickly provide funds in response to natural disasters. FONDEN’s main purpose is to provide immediate financial support to federal agencies and local governments recovering from a disaster, and in particular for the: i) provision of relief supplies; and, ii) financing for reconstruction of public infrastructure and low income homes. FONDEN is also responsible for carrying out studies on risk management and contributing to the design of risk transfer instruments.
Past disaster events
- EM-DAT listing of disaster events in Mexico
- Disaster statistics from UN-ISDR and CRED
- Risk country profile from Index for Risk Management
- Damage and losses statistics from Disaster Information Management Systems
- Disaster response and management data from ReliefWeb
- HFA Progress Reports, government plans, and government statements – http://www.unisdr.org/partners/countries/mex
Red Cross + civil society
- IFRC appeals and info bulletins for Mexico
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