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Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 16, issue 9 | Copyright
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 16, 2031-2041, 2016
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 02 Sep 2016

Research article | 02 Sep 2016

Causes and consequences of the sinkhole at El Trébol of Quito, Ecuador – implications for economic damage and risk assessment

Theofilos Toulkeridis1, Fabián Rodríguez1, Nelson Arias Jiménez2, Débora Simón Baile1, Rodolfo Salazar Martínez1, Aaron Addison3, Dora Carreón Freyre4, Fernando Mato1, and Carmen Díaz Perez5 Theofilos Toulkeridis et al.
  • 1Centro Geoespacial, Universidad de las Fuerzas Armadas ESPE, Sangolquí, Ecuador
  • 2Empresa Metropolitana de Alcantarillado y Agua Potable de Quito, Quito, Ecuador
  • 3Washington University St. Louis, Missouri, USA
  • 4Universidad Nacional Autonoma de México, Campus Querétaro, Querétaro, Mexico
  • 5Escuela Superior Politécnica de Chimborazo, Riobamba, Ecuador

Abstract. The so-called El Trébol is a critical road interchange in Quito connecting the north and south regions of the city. In addition, it connects Quito with the highly populated Los Chillos Valley, one of the most traveled zones in the Ecuadorian capital. El Trébol was constructed in the late 1960s in order to resolve the traffic jams of the capital city and for that purpose the Machángara River was rerouted through an underground concrete box tunnel. In March 2008, the tunnel contained a high amount of discarded furniture that had been impacting the top portion of the tunnel, compromising the structural integrity. On 31 March 2008 after a heavy rainfall a sinkhole of great proportions formed in the Trébol traffic hub. In the first few minutes, the sinkhole reached an initial diameter of 30m. The collapse continued to grow in the following days until the final dimensions of 120m in diameter and some 40m of depth, revealing the Machángara River at the base of the sinkhole.

A state of emergency was declared. The cause of the sinkhole was a result of the lack of monitoring of the older subterranean infrastructure where trash had accumulated and damaged the concrete tunnel that channelized the Machángara River until it was worn away for a length of some 20m, leaving behind the sinkhole and the fear of recurrence in populated areas.

With the intent to understand the causes and consequences of this sinkhole event, rainfall data are shown together with hydrogeological characteristics and a view back to the recent history of sinkhole lineation or arrangement of the city of Quito. The economic impact is also emphasized, where the direct costs of the damage and the reconstruction are presented and compared to indirect costs associated with this socio-natural disaster. These analyses suggest that the costs of indirect financial damage, like time loss or delay, and subsequent higher expenses for different types of vehicles, are equivalent to many times the costs of the reconstruction of El Trébol.

Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Any sinkhole occurring in a highly active city provokes chaos and disturbance. In the city of Quito a big sinkhole appeared in a critical road interchange called El Trébol. For a few months the city came close to collapse with its traffic in this zone and a state of emergency was declared. During the recovery and reconstruction of the site, the cause was able to be determined as the combined negligence of monitoring of older subterranean infrastructure as well as high precipitation.
Any sinkhole occurring in a highly active city provokes chaos and disturbance. In the city of...