Assessing seismic risk in Kenya (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 964)



Identify data on, or ways to assess, seismic risk in Kenya. Where possible, identify what the data suggests about the absolute levels of risk, the relative levels of risk compared to other countries, and which populations are particularly vulnerable.

Key findings

This report identifies literature that assesses seismic risk in Kenya. In this report seismic risk, as a concept, is understood to be the product of seismic hazard (the probability of harmful seismic phenomena) and seismic vulnerability (the degree of loss from seismic phenomena).

In terms of overall seismic risk, the presence of part of the East African Rift, which runs through the west of Kenya and the Davie fracture just south of the Mombasa, means that Kenya is vulnerable to seismic activity and related natural disasters: earthquakes, volcanic eruption and tsunamis.

Kenya faces a relatively low earthquake hazard in comparison to neighbouring countries with hazard levels highest in the north-west and south-west regions. There have been tremors in the past, but no significant damage or loss of life despite public alarm. The cities with the greatest degree of hazard are Nakuru, Eldoret, Kisumu and Kakamega which have a medium degree of seismic hazard (see WHO 2010 for the hazard scale). Nairobi faces a low degree of hazard and Mombasa very low.

Mombasa and the rest of the Kenyan coast have a modest degree of tsunami hazard. Kenya has only experienced one recorded tsunami which arose from the Indian Ocean Earthquake of 2004, the impact of which was relatively minor. According to assessments, the coast is vulnerable to 2 metre high waves and water reaching 500 metres inland.

It has not been possible to estimate volcanic hazard in this helpdesk report.


Rao, S. Assessing seismic risk in Kenya (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 964). Governance and Social Development Resource Centre, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK (2013) 10 pp.

Assessing seismic risk in Kenya (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 964)

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