Building Local Capacity: EWB-USA’s Response to the Ecuador Earthquake

building_assessmentOn April 16, 2016, a powerful 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Ecuador, leaving widespread damage in its wake. The effects extended far beyond the epicenter, a sparsely populated region 110 miles from the capital of Quito, claiming hundreds of lives and damaging countless structures beyond repair. The people of Ecuador are now faced with the overwhelming task of rebuilding their lives from under the rubble.

All Hands Volunteers (AHV), an NGO dedicated to disaster response, demolition and reconstruction services
who EWB-USA worked with after the Nepal earthquake, asked EWB-USA for technical support. Within two weeks of the earthquake, EWB-USA’s Engineering Service Corps (ESC) had deployed Martin Aquino and Kevin Hagen, Director of the Engineering Service Corps, to Canoa, one of the country’s most devastated towns. Martin and Kevin both have ATC-20 training for post-seismic damage assessment and worked on reconstruction efforts in Nepal.

demolitionPartnering with Ecuador’s Corps of Engineers, the municipality of San Vicente and other national agencies, the ESC team provided engineering assistance and damage assessment with the goal of guiding a sustainable rebuilding process. The majority of buildings in Canoa were built with methods and materials poorly suited for use in an active seismic zone, leading many buildings to be marked for demolition, including Canoa’s primary school. Martin and Kevin worked with local professionals to assess building damage, and left behind a report recommending improved building practices to create safer residential and commercial buildings for years to come.


Plans for reconstruction are pending, and over the coming months the Engineering Service Corps anticipates continued work with local organizations toward sustainable recovery. As the needs in Ecuador evolve, so will EWB-USA’s response. The Engineering Service Corps is uniquely poised to fill the need for experienced engineers with community-driven development experience during disaster recovery. For this assignment alone, more than a dozen qualified EWB-USA members offered their time and expertise. Our hope is that our members’ expertise can help the local people and organizations rebuild a better, stronger Ecuador.

Learn more about the Engineering Service Corps >>