Backed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Global Earthquake Model foundation (GEM) has inked a memorandum of mnderstanding (MoU) with the Addis Ababa City Administration to assess risks of natural disasters such as earthquakes and other geological phenomena.
In an event held on Thursday at the municipality, both sides have agreed to conduct a study about the status of exposure to earthquakes amid highly booming construction activities across the town.
Haile Fisseha, general manager of the Addis Ababa City Administration, underscored that the capital never has an institution that detects and issues early warnings to an impending geological disasters like earthquake. The agreement with GEM foundation is sought to assess, find and suggest the necessary measures to be considered in time of disaster. The general manager claimed that the capital is likely to be affected by earthquake since it is located closer to the Great Rift Valley Region which extends from southern Ethiopia all the way to the northeast making the capital vulnerable to movements in the rift valley system.
The city with its fast expanding skyscrapers, highways, rails and the like, taking into account geological events like earthquakes is of paramount significance, geologists advise.
Hunde Melka, chief geologist at the Geological Survey of Ethiopia (GSE), told The Reporter that in addition to earthquakes, other geological factors require due attention and studies in the city.
The experts endorse the project that the city administration has conceived as it is vital for the city in the future. However, contractors or builders need to extend geological surveys and assessments to curb possible disasters, Hunde advised. Building codes and the likes should be put in place in view of geological considerations, he said.
Back in 2015, GEM foundation started to establish relationships with the city officials and a year later, both GEM and the city administration furthered their deal and agreed to conduct earthquake surveys.
Carlos Vilalcis, regional program manager and strategy coordinator at GEM noted that Addis has been chosen as a gate way to assess risks of earthquakes in the continent. The success of the project will lead for further expansions in the rest of Africa, Vilalcis said. According to the agreement, GEM will finalize the outcomes of the assessments around June by the latest.
Following a mild earthquake that rocked Hawassa, the capital of the Southern Regional State, some 270km south of the capital, renewed attention is observed in the consideration of natural disasters like earthquake in the county’s construction sector. Located in the same rift valley system like as Hawassa and other cities, Addis Ababa is also said to be vulnerable to potential geological event in the rift valley system.
According to experts, the country is divided into four different geological zones based on the tendency to be prone to the risk of earthquake. The most earthquake prone areas are of course inside the rift valley system, which includes both Hawassa and the capital Addis Ababa. Hawassa, for instance, is located in zone 4, which is the highest region in terms of exposure to earthquake. Experts also explain; as one moves away from rift valley system, the exposure to earthquake starts to declines with zone 3, 2 and 1 becoming less and less prone in descending order. Addis Ababa is located in Zone 2 with limited yet concerning level of earthquake risk.
According to the same standards, for instance, in zone 4, which also includes Hawassa, the ground acceleration factor (the amplitude of the largest absolute acceleration recorded on an accelerogram at a site during a particular earthquake) that should be considered by engineers is around 0.1; the highest value that is applied in Ethiopia. But, geophysicists still argue that this number is not enough.