Microzonation of the expected seismic site effects across port Vila, Vanuatu

Marc Regnier, Steven Moris, Avi Shapira, Alona Malitzky, Graham Shorten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The city of Port Vila, Vanuatu, is located in one of the most active seismic regions on earth. Earthquakes are felt frequently and, due to very rapid plate convergence rates, return period of large earthquakes (M > 6) in the New Hebrides Benioff zone can be less than 10 years. Even though Port Vila does not lie on an identified seismic fault zone, strong motions by nearby earthquakes have to be expected due to the city’s geographical location close to the plate boundary of New Hebrides convergence zone. An accurate estimation of the seismic ground motion across the city is of prime importance for urban developments and mitigation of earthquake risk. Following many examples of monitored strong earthquakes in the current century, it is evident that the local site effects may have a dominant contribution to the intensity of damage and destruction. In this study we focussed on the first stage of associating site effects and seismic hazard by preparing a microzonation map for Port Vila. The seismic microzonation of the city has been carried out to provide a detailed map of the zones that exhibit site effects in terms of resonance frequencies and approximated amplification of the ground shaking. Having in mind that these data will be used in improving building design to sustain strong ground motions, our analysis is limited to the frequency band of 1-10 Hz, corresponding to the expected resonance of different types of buildings in Port Vila. The Nakamura technique has been used to estimate site amplification effects from single station noise recordings. Interestingly, excluding one site located on an old dump zone, the amplification factors at about the 100 sites surveyed in Port Vila remain below 3 with an average well below 2 in the 1 to 10 Hz frequency band. These results suggest that there is no significant Vs velocity change in consequently layered material and that the uppermost sedimentary layers in the surveyed down town area are relatively thin. These observations are in agreement with the mapping of limestone terraces throughout Port Vila area. However, both the surface geology and results from seismic zonation indicate a thicker (up to several tens of meters) sedimentary cover around the Bauerfield airport and in the Mele terrace zone. Low resonance frequencies (around and below 1 Hz) and amplification factor of the order of 5 were observed over this large area, immediately outside Port Vila. Any building development in this area should take these results into account.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-231
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Earthquake Engineering
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported (in part, if applicable) under grant no. MOU-45C13- 024, US-Israel Cooperative Development Research Program, Center for Economic Growth and Agricultural Development US Agency for International Development. This research was also supported by ORSTOM and the French Foreign Office. We tLank Roger Decourt and Jean Claude Willy for helping in data collection and Litea Biukoto for drafting the zonation map

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology


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