New EQFL metric evaluates the impact of earthquakes on countries over the past five centuries

EQFL: New metric to assess the impact of earthquakes on countries over the past 500 years

Researchers at the International Centre for Earth Simulation Foundation, led by Max Wyss, have developed the Earthquake Fatality Load (EQFL), a new metric for assessing the impact of earthquakes by focusing on human fatalities relative to a country’s population.

  •  Among 35 seismically important countries with adequate data Ecuador, Lebanon, Haiti, Turkmenistan, Iran, and Portugal have experienced the greatest loads during the last five centuries

Wyss and his team analyzed earthquake data dating back to 1500, calculating the EQFL for 35 countries and regions. This analysis, covering 97% of all earthquake-related fatalities, revealed that smaller countries such as Ecuador, Lebanon, Haiti, Turkmenistan, Iran, and Portugal are most affected when considering the proportion of their populations lost to earthquakes.

The study found that countries with minimal tectonic activity or slow fault deformation rates also ranked high in EQFL. This challenges the traditional focus on seismic hotspots, emphasizing the need to consider earthquake risk more broadly.

A notable trend is the global decrease in EQFL over the past 500 years, attributed to advancements in building technology, better emergency response systems, and urbanization. California, Colombia, Ecuador, and Mexico have shown the most significant decreases, while Italy has seen the smallest decline, largely due to the challenge of modernizing its historic buildings.

The research highlights the importance of focusing on human lives in earthquake risk assessment and mitigation strategies. Max Wyss’s involvement in developing QLARM, a real-time quake loss assessment service, underscores the potential for technology to improve disaster preparedness and response.

The introduction of the EQFL by Wyss and his colleagues offers a new lens through which to view earthquake impacts, prioritizing the human toll and encouraging the adoption of effective mitigation strategies to protect vulnerable populations worldwide.


1 The Earthquake Fatality Load: A Measure of Impact – Max Wys et al. – Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America (2024) –

2 The impact of earthquake fatalities on countries over past 500 years – Open Access Government – February 16, 2024


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