Government plans to relocate an entire town because of earthquake and tsunami risk

Jul 15, 2016 | 29 comments

It’s time for the town of Muisne to leave the island, the government says.

Earthquake damage in Muisne.

Earthquake damage in Muisne.

Located in Esmeraldas Province on Ecuador’s north coast, Muisne was severely damaged by the April 16 earthquake and has been near the epicenter of several strong aftershocks, including one last week.

Cesar Navas, Minister of Security, says the move is necessary due the island’s low elevation – the highest point is four meters – and its vulnerability to both earthquakes and tsunamis. He says the island’s population of 2,000 will be moved inland to an area that is more than 20 meters above sea level at a cost of $80 million, a cost to be shared by the federal and provincial governments.

chl muisneNavas said the island will become a recreational area, connected to the mainland by pedestrian and bicycle bridges, an idea proposed by President Rafael Correa last week. “No new construction will be allowed and resale of existing property will be prohibited,” he said, adding that details of property condemnation and compensation are yet to be determined.

Muisne is not the only town being relocated on the north coast. More than 400 residents of the town and island of Portete, located near Mompiche, were moved inland following the April earthquake, as have several other smaller communities believed to be in particularly vulnerable areas.

Susana Dueñas, regional risk management director, says the primary reason for the relocations is the threat of tsunamis. Historical records show that Ecuador’s entire coast has been over-washed on several occasions during the last 500 years by tsunamis, some with waves of 50 meters above sea level. “This would cause great loss of life,” Dueñas says. “It is our responsibility to prepare now to avoid a tragedy.”

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