Skip to main content
article atm-icon bar bell bio cancel-o cancel ch-icon crisis-color crisis cs-icon doc-icon down-angle down-arrow-o down-triangle download email-small email external facebook googleplus hamburger image-icon info-o info instagram left-angle-o left-angle left-arrow-2 left-arrow linkedin loader menu minus-o pdf-icon pencil photography pinterest play-icon plus-o press right-angle-o right-angle right-arrow-o right-arrow right-diag-arrow rss search tags time twitter up-arrow-o videos

Suggested Content

Earthquakes and other catastrophic events can strike with little or no warning. Health facilities must be built to survive the impact of a sudden or slow-moving disaster and continue to serve their communities. Health workers need the training and resources required to treat the health issues and injuries that result from such brutal events.

Patient being transported for medical help

Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Volcanoes…

Recent Updates: On New Year’s Day, a powerful earthquake in Japan killed more than 50 people and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses.

On October 7, 2023, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck Herat Province, western Afghanistan. Several aftershocks have occurred since. The death and injury toll was high as the quake struck in an area with poor infrastructure and few resources to manage the crisis.

In September, A powerful earthquake struck Morocco on registering 6.8 on the Richter scale and causing at least 2,100 deaths. The United States Geological Survey said it was the strongest quake to hit the area in more than 100 years.

Earthquakes and other catastrophic events can strike suddenly on a massive scale over a wide area with a death toll in the tens of thousands. While the tsunami threat after an earthquake (Indonesia 2018 Japan 2011Southeast Asia 2004) does allow a brief time to post a warning, often it is too little to save lives. In the case of earthquakes and volcanoes, the series of aftershocks or continued volcanic activity poses an ongoing threat in the midst of the chaos after the initial event.  And in countries like Haiti which has endured the devastation and death associated with major earthquakes in 2010 and again in 2021, the recovery process take years and exposes communities to the effects of other disasters. In 2020, while Puerto Rico was still recovering from Hurricane Maria, a major earthquake struck.

See the latest earthquake activity via the USGS map.

One Year Later: Deadly Earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria

We continue our work in Türkiye and Syria after the catastrophic earthquake on Feb. 6, 2023 that left entire communities in ruins and killed thousands.

Preparation for a Catastrophe

Although we can identify earthquake/volcano risk regions, such as the “Ring of Fire” in the South Pacific or the San Andreas fault in Southern California, we have little warning when a sudden event strikes a country or entire region. The deadly earthquake in Afghanistan last year struck suddenly in a vulnerable region of a country struggling with many challenges and especially vulnerable to such disasters.

Sometimes the event starts a cascade of catastrophe as in the Japan Earthquake of 2011 that added a monstrous tsunami and then a nuclear disaster with reactor damage and radioactive contamination of air, soil and water. Volcanic eruptions can bury entire communities or inundate whole areas with lava flows and fill the air with deadly toxic gases or ash. The readiness challenges for effective disaster response and recovery after a catastrophic event are formidable.  In 2020 we responded to the eruption of the Taal Volcano as well as a 7.1 earthquake that occurred on July 26, 2022 in the Philippines. The Nevado del Ruiz volcano, located on the border of the Colombia departments Tolima and Caldas, remains under an orange alert due to its possible risk of eruption. Our Colombia team is ready to respond should an eruption occur.

Often such catastrophic events occur in vulnerable countries and regions with limited resources to prepare for or respond to a disaster.

Threats During Catastrophic Events

From the experience of Americares Emergency Response Team and our health partners, what are some of the specifics of local readiness and response for catastrophic events? 

Abstract graphic of an earthquake


Major structural damage to or complete destruction of health facilities (e.g. Nepal Earthquake) including the surrounding infrastructure.


Temporary structures to provide immediate care for the injured, followed by rebuilding stronger, using materials, structural techniques and location based on best practices to better withstand future seismic events.

Abstract graphic of an power outage


Cascading connected disasters (e.g. Japan Earthquake, Tsunami, Nuclear Disaster) destroying much of a community or rendering it uninhabitable.


Identifying and serving the specific health needs of the most vulnerable and least mobile (i.e. the elderly, small children, expectant mothers, people with disabilities)

Abstract graphic of a map


Loss of access to health care for those injured in disaster or with ongoing care needs due to infrastructure damage that cuts off  remote locations and limits services. 


Support Emergency Medical Teams equipped to handle or refer impact or crush injuries and provide primary care for those with ongoing treatment needs (e.g. chronic disease).

Are You Prepared for an Earthquake?

  • Be prepared for no electrical or water service for days or weeks.
  • Have a combination weather radio, flashlight and hand crank charger for cellphones at the ready.
  • Have a cash reserve.
  • Know where the shutoff valve and tool are for your natural gas line.
  • Secure bookshelves to walls or any other heavy objects that could fall and injure.
  • Create an earthquake kit with food, water and gear for 72 hours.
Abstract graphic of a relocation


Relocation to temporary camps or housing.


Family emergency kits, water purification, emergency medical care, medicine and supplies for those who lost their homes and who had to flee quickly without their personal belongings or medications.

Abstract graphic of a hug


Mental trauma from severe injury or surrounding loss of life and home from initial seismic disaster, subsequent events or aftershocks.


Training health workers to identify trauma and implementing longer-term mental health support programs for those most at risk.

Learn more about preparing for an earthquake

Abstract graphic of an earthquake

Help Communities Build Back Better.

Consider what your ongoing support could do for communities recovering from a major earthquake or other catastrophe, a recovery that may take months …or years.

Abstract graphic of our Ready, Respond, Recover cycle

The Ready Cycle Plans for the Worst

Emergency programs at Americares represent a continuous cycle of ReadyRespondRecover and then get Ready again, only better. Each disaster presents a new set of challenges to lay the foundation for a better response the next time around.  It is a dynamic process, ever changing as more extreme weather, new disease outbreaks, earth-shaking catastrophes and unforeseen manmade crises arise – always demanding that we increase our knowledge and capabilities. In that work, we are ever mindful and incredibly grateful for the ongoing support of our donors and the presence of local partners who have the ground sense and skill necessary to meet the challenges and often only lack resources to prepare for them.

Our Work:
Responding to Earthquakes, Volcanoes & Tsunamis

How to Prepare for a Disaster
By Americares U.S. Director of Emergency Response Mariel Fonteyn As we enter …
A Voice from Haiti in an Earthquake
Dr. Waly Turin, Americares Project Officer, Haiti, provides a ground view of …
Continuing to Help Earthquake Survivors in Ecuador
A shipment of critical relief supplies, including water purifiers, arrived for survivors …