Natural Disasters in Latin America: A Look Back at 2017

by Zelle LLP

2017 saw approximately USD 330 billion in losses from natural disasters worldwide, of which around USD 135 billion were insured, according to a Munich Re report.  It was the second costliest year on record, only surpassed by 2011.  Latin America was no exception to the trend, as a number of natural catastrophes hit the region last year.

The hurricane season brought two major hurricanes to the Caribbean and Central America.  In early September, Hurricane Irma made landfall with Category 5 intensity in Cuba, and subsequently in the Florida Keys as a large Category 4 hurricane.  Irma also caused widespread destruction in the islands of Barbuda and Saint Martin.

Only ten days later, Hurricane Maria followed a similar track, hitting some of the same islands again and compounding the damage caused by Irma.  The storm hit Dominica at Category 5 strength, inflicting catastrophic damage and ravaging surrounding islands.  Maria then made landfall in Puerto Rico, with winds of 250 km/h (155 mph).  It leveled many structures and devastated the island’s electric grid, leaving millions of people without power. 

Also in September 2017, Mexico was hit by two earthquakes, which caused a combined loss of over USD 8 billion.  On 7 September, a magnitude 8.2 earthquake struck off the southern coast of Mexico, near the state of Chiapas.  It was one of the strongest earthquakes in the country’s history, and the most powerful globally in 2017.  In Chiapas, thousands of homes were destroyed, and at least 98 people died.  The earthquake also shook buildings and caused damages as far away as Mexico City.

Twelve days later, on 19 September, another earthquake struck, with a magnitude of 7.1 and epicenter south of the city of Puebla, only 120 km (75 mi) from Mexico City.  The earthquake caused significant damage in the states of Puebla and Morelos, and in Mexico City, where at least 44 buildings collapsed.  370 people were killed.  A number of the collapsed buildings had been built in the 1960s and 1970s and lacked structural reinforcements.  There have also been complaints that many of the fallen buildings failed to comply with safety regulations.

Earlier in 2017, severe floods and landslides occurred in the northwestern coast of South America.  In Peru, a climate phenomenon known as “El Niño Costero” led to torrential rains in the first quarter of last year, and to the overflowing of numerous rivers, resulting in major flooding.  Large areas in northern Peru, as well as the area around Lima, were affected.  At least 113 people were killed, and there was severe damage to infrastructure, with more than 2,500 km (1,500 mi) of roads numerous buildings, and over 115,000 homes demolished.  The overall losses from the floods amounted to USD 3.1 billion – the majority of which was uninsured.

On 1 April 2017, unusually heavy rain in the area around the city of Mocoa, in Colombia, situated in the Andes, caused several rivers to overflow, resulting in flash floods and landslides.  Some neighborhoods were completely devastated, many homes were leveled, and portions of the city were covered in several feet of mud.  At least 329 people died.

These were the major natural disasters affecting Latin America last year.  It remains to be seen whether 2018 will bring similar large-scale natural catastrophes to the region.  Some experts are projecting an increase in the frequency of extreme storms  (Category 4 and 5) in most areas due to continued climate change.  In a study published in November 2017, a team of researchers analyzed the coastal communities in Latin America and the Caribbean at a high risk of being affected by natural disasters, and concluded that the “hotspot locations” of coastal risk include:  El Oro, Ecuador; Sinaloa, Mexico; Usulutan, El Salvador; and Chiapas, Mexico.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Zelle LLP | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Zelle  LLP

Zelle LLP on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.