El Salvador lies along the Pacific Ring of Fire, and is thus subject to significant tectonic activity, including frequent earthquakes and volcanic activity.
Recent examples include the earthquake on January 13, 2001, that measured 7.7 on the Richter scale and caused a landslide that killed more than 800 people; and another earthquake only a month after the first one, February 13, 2001, killing 255 people and damaging about 20% of the nation’s housing. Luckily, many families were able to find safety from the landslides caused by the earthquake.
The San Salvador area has been hit by earthquakes in 1576, 1659, 1798, 1839, 1854, 1873, 1880, 1917, 1919, 1965, 1986, 2001 and 2005. The 5.7 Mw-earthquake of 1986 resulted in 1,500 deaths, 10,000 injuries, and 100,000 people left homeless.
El Salvador’s most recent destructive volcanic eruption took place on October 1, 2005, when the Santa Ana Volcano spewed up a cloud of ash, hot mud and rocks, which fell on nearby villages and caused two deaths. The most severe volcanic eruption in this area occurred in the 5th century AD when the Ilopango erupted with a VEI strength of 6, producing widespread pyroclastic flows and devastating Mayan cities.
El Salvador’s position on the Pacific Ocean also makes it subject to severe weather conditions, including heavy rainstorms and severe droughts, both of which may be made more extreme by the El Niño and La Niña effects. In the summer of 2001, a severe drought destroyed 80% of the country’s crops, causing famine in the countryside. On October 4, 2005, severe rains resulted in dangerous flooding and landslides, which caused a minimum of fifty deaths.
El Salvador’s location in Central America also makes it vulnerable to hurricanes coming off the Caribbean, however this risk is much less than for other Central American countries.
The Santa Ana Volcano in El Salvador is currently dormant, the last eruptions were in 1904 and 2005. Lago de Coatepeque (one of El Salvador’s lakes) was caused by a massive eruption.
The British Imperial College’s El Salvador Project aims to build earthquake-proof buildings in remote areas of the country.