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Reducing Earthquake Losses (REL)

The REL (Reducing Earthquake Losses) scientific programmes were jointly launched by UNESCO and the US Geological Survey (USGS) in earthquake-prone regions such as the Eastern Mediterranean Region (RELEMR), the South Asia Region (RELSAR), and the Northeast Asia Region (RELNAR), to foster data exchange, conduct joint activities and experiments and improve hazard assessments in the region.

Reducing Earthquake Losses in the Extended Mediterranean Region (RELEMR) programme

The Mediterranean region, because of its geological structure, seismicity, active tectonics, topography and climate, has been frequently subjected to natural disasters resulting in great losses of life and property. Large portions of the land surface, population, infrastructure and industry of the region have been subjected to earthquakes in the past or will be in the future.

UNESCO and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) launched the Reducing Earthquake Losses in the Eastern Mediterranean Region (RELEMR) programme in Cairo in 1993 with the purpose of assessing, evaluating and reducing expected earthquake losses in this region. Thirty-five RELEMR meetings have been held since the first meeting in 1993.

The goals of RELEMR workshops are to foster data exchange among countries in the region; to conduct joint activities and experiments that would improve the quality of seismic data; to improve hazard assessments in the Mediterranean region; to improve the dissemination of earthquake engineering data; and, ultimately, to improve the seismic provisions of building codes in the region.

At these meetings participants discuss regional approaches to improve seismic data (e.g., more accurate locations and improved magnitude estimates), probabilistic seismic hazard assessment (PSHA), and engineering issues (e.g., reasons for building failures). Moreover special sessions are held on the technical methodology and applications of the HAZUS-MH earthquake loss estimation model; the protection of historical sites in the Extended Mediterranean Region and Open Source Software; and the production of a RELEMR seismicity map.

Specialized institutions responsible for earthquake risk studies from the following countries and authorities have been participating in these workshops on a regular basis: Algeria, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Kuwait, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States and Yemen.

RELEMR workshops contribute to the understanding of the risks posed by earthquakes in the Extended Mediterranean Region and the participants have the opportunity to contribute to the health and safety of millions of people.

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Reducing Earthquake Losses in the South Asia Region (RELSAR) programme

Among the numerous natural disasters that the countries of Asia have experienced, earthquakes have historically had great impacts. The most recent and devastating earthquakes in Pakistan in 2005, Sichuan province in 2008, Qinghai province of China in 2010 and Nepal 2015 reveal the seismoactivity of the region and vulnerability of the population to it. It is necessary to mobilize scientific knowledge and technological know-how to assess earthquake hazards and to strengthen disaster mitigation measures.  

To this end, regional collaboration needs to be encouraged. Since 1999 UNESCO and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) have been cooperating with scientific and engineering organizations in the South Asia region under the Reduction of Earthquake Losses in the South Asia Region (RELSAR) programme.

The purpose of the programme is to provide a platform for examining regional approaches to improve seismic data and earthquake risk mitigation. A number of collaborative activities have taken place under this initiative, including nine workshops that have been held since the start of the programme in 1999.

The goals of the programme cover several areas:

  • Seismology : data exchange and improve data on earthquake locations and earthquake magnitudes, to create the regional seismicity map;
  • Geology : improve understanding of regional tectonic processes;
  • Earthquake engineering : create regional ground-shaking maps, do the probabilistic seismic hazard assessment and include earthquake provisions in building codes.

The following countries are participants of RELSAR projects: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, France, India, Indonesia, Iran Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, USA and UK.

In the past years, UNESCO, USGS, GFZ and other earth science organizations in the South Asia region organized and have sponsored a series of workshops and training courses in Central Asia dealing with seismology, seismic hazard and risk assessment and mitigation aiming to reduce earthquake losses and strengthen scientific cooperation initiatives devoted to the South Asia Region. In 2013, the first International Workshop for Regional Cooperation in Seismology and Earthquake Engineering in South and Central Asia was held in Kathmandu, Nepal. It was hosted by the National Society for Earthquake Technology - Nepal (NSET) and was attended by 70 scientists and engineers from 15 countries.

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Reducing Earthquake Losses in the Northeast Asia Region (RELNAR) programme

The Asian region has the highest level of seismicity on the planet; consequently it has suffered from many of the largest earthquakes in history. The majority of earthquakes in the Asian region originate in areas of plate convergence where one tectonic plate slides beneath another plate (subduction zones). However, large earthquakes are not always associated with subduction zones. Faults where horizontal motion takes place (strike-slip faults) also generate devastating earthquakes. Strike-slip faults in China and Mongolia are responsible for numerous destructive earthquakes, often with magnitudes between 6.0 and 7.5 and occasionally greater than 8.0.

In response to this risk, most nations have increased the number and quality of seismic stations used to monitor earthquake activity. The optimal use of this data for regional earthquake monitoring is a major challenge that will require the exchange of data, software, and expertise among the interested nations.

UNESCO has recently explored the possibility of pursuing a cooperative activity on earthquake data analysis, which will be jointly promoted by UNESCO and the USGS, in the sub-region of North East Asia comprising the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Japan, Mongolia, the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of Korea, and the Russian Federation.

Beyond its scientific value, the project offers a forum for scientists and engineers from various countries - presenting a diversity of contexts - to work together under UNESCO’s umbrella and discuss regional approaches to improve collaboration in earthquake data exchange and analysis. The first meeting was successfully held in China in December 2009, hosted by the China Earthquake Administration, under the aegis of UNESCO, in cooperation with the USGS.

The next RELNAR workshop is planned to be held in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia in 2011, hosted by the Research Centre for Astronomy and Geophysics of Mongolia.

Documents :

The Asian region has the highest level of seismicity on the planet; consequently it has suffered from many of the largest earthquakes in history. The majority of earthquakes in the Asian region originate in areas of plate convergence where one tectonic plate slides beneath another plate (subduction zones). However, large earthquakes are not always associated with subduction zones. Faults where horizontal motion takes place (strike-slip faults) also generate devastating earthquakes. Strike-slip faults in China and Mongolia are responsible for numerous destructive earthquakes, often with magnitudes between 6.0 and 7.5 and occasionally greater than 8.0. In response to this risk, most nations have increased the number and quality of seismic stations used to monitor earthquake activity. The optimal use of this data for regional earthquake monitoring is a major challenge that will require the exchange of data, software, and expertise among the interested nations. UNESCO has recently explored the possibility of pursuing a cooperative activity on earthquake data analysis, which will be jointly promoted by UNESCO and the USGS, in the sub-region of North East Asia comprising the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Japan, Mongolia, the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of Korea, and the Russian Federation. Beyond its scientific value, the project offers a forum for scientists and engineers from various countries - presenting a diversity of contexts - to work together under UNESCO’s umbrella and discuss regional approaches to improve collaboration in earthquake data exchange and analysis. The first meeting was successfully held in China in December 2009, hosted by the China Earthquake Administration, under the aegis of UNESCO, in cooperation with the USGS. The next RELNAR workshop is planned to be held in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia in 2011, hosted by the Research Centre for Astronomy and Geophysics of Mongolia.