Contrasting seismic risk for Santiago, Chile, from near-field and distant earthquake sources
Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences
Abstract. More than half of all the people in the world now live in dense urban centres. The rapid expansion of cities, particularly in low-income nations, has enabled the economic and social development of millions of people. However, many of these cities are located near active tectonic faults that have not produced an earthquake in recent memory, raising the risk of losing hard-earned progress through a devastating earthquake. In this paper we explore the possible impact that earthquakes can
... have on the city of Santiago in Chile from various potential near-field and distant earthquake sources. We use high-resolution stereo satellite imagery and imagery-derived digital elevation models to accurately map the trace of the San Ramón Fault, a recently recognised active fault located along the eastern margins of the city. We use scenario-based seismic-risk analysis to compare and contrast the estimated damage and losses to the city from several potential earthquake sources and one past event, comprising (i) rupture of the San Ramón Fault, (ii) a hypothesised buried shallow fault beneath the centre of the city, (iii) a deep intra-slab fault, and (iv) the 2010 Mw 8.8 Maule earthquake. We find that there is a strong magnitude–distance trade-off in terms of damage and losses to the city, with smaller magnitude earthquakes in the magnitude range of 6–7.5 on more local faults producing 9 to 17 times more damage to the city and estimated fatalities compared to the great magnitude 8+ earthquakes located offshore in the subduction zone. Our calculations for this part of Chile show that unreinforced-masonry structures are the most vulnerable to these types of earthquake shaking. We identify particularly vulnerable districts, such as Ñuñoa, Santiago, and Providencia, where targeted retrofitting campaigns would be most effective at reducing potential economic and human losses. Due to the potency of near-field earthquake sources demonstrated here, our work highlights the importance of also identifying and considering proximal minor active faults for cities in seismic zones globally in addition to the more major and distant large fault zones that are typically focussed on in the assessment of hazard.