1990 earthquake essay

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This Day In History : July 16

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Earthquake wreaks havoc in the Philippines

1990 earthquake essay

More than 1,000 people are killed when a 7.7-magnitude earthquake strikes Luzon Island in the Philippines on July 16, 1990. The massive tremor wreaked havoc across a sizeable portion of Luzon, the country’s largest island, with Baguio City suffering the most devastating effects.

The epicenter of the quake, which struck at 4:26 p.m., was north of Manila in the Nueva Ecija province. Reports indicate that the shaking went on for nearly a full minute. Collapsing buildings were the main cause of damage and death. Getting out of a multi-story building was a good safety precaution that afternoon, although many people were injured and a few even died in stampedes of others doing the same thing.

At Christian College, a six-story building completely collapsed, trapping approximately 250 students and teachers inside. Heroic rescue efforts saved many, but some victims who did not die in the collapse were found dead later from dehydration because they were not pulled out in time.

All types of buildings, including several resort hotels in Baguio, known as the Philippines’ Summer Capital, suffered tremendous damage. Most of the city’s 100,000 residents slept outdoors that evening and during the following week, afraid to return to their homes amid the frequent aftershocks. For days, workers pulled bodies from the demolished buildings in Baguio. The best estimate is that 1,000 bodies were eventually recovered. At least another 1,000 people suffered serious injuries. Rescue efforts were hampered severely because the three main roads into the city were blocked by landslides. Hundreds of motorists were stranded on the roads as well. Outside of Baguio, a chemical factory fire also caused terrible damage. The Tuba gold and copper mine in the area lost 30 workers when a mine collapsed.

Baguio, sitting on at least seven fault lines, is now listed as one of the most risk-prone cities in Asia. In addition to the risk of earthquakes, the area’s high annual rainfall increases the likelihood of deadly landslides.

American military personnel stationed in the Philippine archipelago took part in the relief effort. The area was revisited by disaster less than a year later when Mount Pinatubo erupted. Some geologists believe the two events were connected.

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Faith and science: Lessons from the 1990 Luzon earthquake

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This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

Faith and science: Lessons from the 1990 Luzon earthquake

MANILA, Philippines – The magnitude 7.8 earthquake that hit Northern and Central Luzon in 1990 was one of the most damaging earthquakes to hit the Philippines. (READ: Remembering the 1990 Luzon earthquake )

1990 earthquake essay

Sonia Roco: Eyewitness to the 1990 Luzon earthquake

In the first part of this story, Rappler recounts the story of Sonia Roco , the widow of the late senator Raul Roco. For almost two days, she was trapped on the second floor of Hotel Nevada, with no food and water.

If that earthquake – which killed about 2,412 people and caused a number of buildings to collapse – were to happen again today, would we know what to do and what not to do?

What lessons from the 1990 Luzon earthquake can we apply, should the “Big One” happen in Metro Manila? (READ: What dangers await when the West Valley Fault moves? )

Survival tactics

While trapped inside, Sonia, her sister-in-law Peachie, and the other survivors did everything they could to be comfortable with the little space they had.

“Around me were papers, an old electric fan and a vase. [I said] this vase, just in case we need to make wiwi [pee], we’ll just use the vase,” Sonia said.

Meanwhile, on the other side was Peachie, crouched on her fours with her feet stuck on the other side, busy trying to make their place bigger.

“They were like masikip (crowded),” Sonia recalled. “She kept on saying, ito urong mo dito (move here), ito urong mo diyan (move there). She was trying to fix them up because apparently, what I thought was they were tight. There were many of them in that area.”

As careful as possible

One of the things that make rescue operations in collapsed structures more difficult is the very delicate situation survivors could be in. With the danger of possibly killing another survivor, rescuers had to be very careful with every move they made.

According to Sonia, help didn’t come until morning the next day. They started making noises just so the rescuers would know people were trapped in there. However, the rescue operations had to stop because it was making their situation worse.

PANCAKED. The Baguio Park Hotel after the magnitude-7.8 earthquake hit Northern and Central Luzon. Photo from Phivolcs

“We could hear jackhammers. They were now pounding on the building and we were all screaming because the more they shook the building, more people would die because they would all be covered by the debris,” Sonia recalled. “We said ‘Stop it! stop it!’ There were so many of us [telling them to stop].”

Desperate moves

While those trapped were already in a very dangerous situation, those who were lucky enough not to be stuck in the rubble faced different risks as well.

Colonel Jeff Tamayo, the one who led the Philippine Military Academy’s rescue operations in Baguio Park Hotel and the University of Baguio, recalled how survivors of the earthquake, especially children, died not because of the shaking but because of trying to get out of the buildings.

“Some of them tried. Kumuha sila ng mga kurtina, ginawa nilang pangbaba nila. But you have to remember, ‘pag walang preparations sa high angle ang bata, yung unang hawak niya, pag binitawan niya yan because of fear, eh malalaglag yan,” Tamayo explained.  (They used curtains to get down. But you have to remember that if a child is not prepared going down from a high angle, he could lose his grip and he could fall.)

“So maraming nasaktan at namatay na bata in trying to get out of where they were. Nalalaglag sila sa ground floor,” he added. (Many children either got hurt or died while trying to get out of where they were. They fell to the ground floor.)

Faith and science

Surviving without light, food, or water could be a challenge. Sonia believes she was able to get through it because of her faith in God.

“Maybe I survived because I prayed and prayed like I never prayed before…I realized that in moments like this, there’s no one else you can go to, cling to…It boils down to your faith, and a little courage,” said Sonia.

While Sonia thinks her faith in God helped her, she also believes that hiding under that table saved her. 

A number of times, she had experienced minor earthquakes, yet she claims she still didn’t know what to do.

“All that I know in my mind was to go under a table. It so happened that at the time there was a table…Probably, the roof or the ceiling did not fall flat. It was inclined.  And [maybe] the one that was killed right away was on the heaviest part and we were here [where there was a gap] and that is why we were saved,” Sonia explained.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology has been telling the public that the best thing to do when an earthquake strikes is to go under a table to do the duck, cover and hold. (READ: What to do before, during, and after an earthquake )

  Miners will play a role

 If the earthquake were to happen today, Tamayo believes miners will be of great help as they were in Baguio in 1990.

“Miners are very important for earthquakes because they are the ones closely prepared to deal with earthquakes, especially when looking underground or at collapsed structures.” Tamayo said.

Students, according to Tamayo should be made “aware of what they [miners] do – the capabilities of miners, because they are used to confined spaces. It’s called confined space rescue.”

Netizens share their experiences

On social media, netizens who experienced the earthquake also shared their experiences.

To those who are old enough, do you remember where you were that afternoon? What was it like? Let us know! Posted by Move.PH on  Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Audie Danao Panaligan, who was a Grade 2 student at the time could still remember how her teacher was saved from a falling blackboard because of the desk in front of it.

“Our teacher told us not to panic, and then the blackboard fell on her but it was cushioned by the desk on the platform so it did not totally hit her,” he recalled.

Jayster Jay, who was 3 years old at the time said they suffered bruises, but were able to survive after hiding under a table.

Benigno Asprec on the other hand was in a La Union-bound jeepney on Marcos highway when the earthquake struck. The driver was supposed to go back, but landslides made it difficult for them. In the end, he just braved the rain and walked to La Union, along with other people.

Did we learn our lessons?

Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum said the 1990 earthquake left 4 valuable lessons:

  • The public needs to respond properly during earthquakes
  • Hazards and their effects should be simulated
  • Building codes should be implemented properly and land use should be carefully planned
  • Trained search and rescue groups and medical responders are needed

Meanwhile, netizen Panaligan said most people have not learned their lessons yet, nearly 3 decades after the earthquake.

“Yes, I have learned my lesson. Sad to say, but most have not. Baguio’s Urban and Land Use Planning is a bit terrible. You have houses built right in front of each other in some areas, you cannot even tell the back from the front of the house,” he explained.

“There is supposed to be an ordinance that says the buildings must not exceed a height of 4 stories or something, and yet after the quake you have structures that are built up to 7 floors right at the city center,” he added.

In a recent report, Baguio City Mayor Mauricio Domogan said the height limit under the zoning ordinance is no longer applicable, citing policy in California in the United States which allows buildings up to 48 stories. California sits on an earthquake-prone area, which features the dreaded San Andreas Fault. (READ: Rush to progress? Baguio allows taller buildings after 1990 earthquake )

Domogan cited findings of studies by experts which showed that the destruction of buildings in the 1990 quake was due to alleged poor structural design, thus magnifying the earthquake damage. He said the height of buildings allowed in the city depends on soil tests – whether the proposed building can be supported by the ground underneath it.

In 1992, around two years after the Luzon earthquake struck, the National Structural Code of the Philippines, which  prescribes requirements to ensure that homes and buildings will not sustain major structural damage when an earthquake strikes, was updated to conform to most recent standards.

Various earthquake drills and information campaigns are also regularly conducted in different parts of the country.

Are we now ready for the “Big One?” –  Rappler.com

NEXT: Can your house withstand major earthquakes?

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Unshaken Resilience: the 1990 Killer Earthquake in Retrospect

The earthquake that shook Luzon on a fateful Monday of July 16, 1990, was an event that has forever changed the lives of many, even those who have not been born yet, like me. To commemorate the tragedy that has happened exactly three decades ago, we took to our Facebook Page to ask our followers where they were when the 1990 Luzon Killer earthquake happened, and what we got were different stories of loss, hope, fear, resilience, and heroism.

Jump to Article Content

1990 Earthquake Babies

Lives were lost during that day, but lives were also being brought into the world just like these commenters:

1990 earthquake essay

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Adrenaline rush.

1990 earthquake essay

Unshaken Resilience

The catastrophic event led to a loss of thousands of lives, divided roads, and shattered dreams that will forever be etched vividly into the memories of those who have experienced it first-hand. These are stories that should be remembered and passed to the younger generations. It is and will always be a part of who we are as Baguio people, regardless if you haven’t been born yet. But like many adversities, the earthquake has also brought out traits that have helped Filipinos emerge stronger than ever before: resilience, compassion, and heroism. These are traits that will never go out of style, and something we can instill in ourselves and share with others even without the presence of a life-changing tragedy or a pandemic. And while we are facing a battle that can’t ever be compared with a 45-second killer quake, may this be a reminder that even in the most tragic of times, while seemingly hopeless and just unfair, there are lessons we can learn moving forward and that there is always light despite the darkness we are all going through today.

Join the Discussion

The comments of anecdotes and first-hand experiences featured above are just some of the experiences shared through our Facebook Page. Every story counts and deserves to be heard. We would love to hear your story. Share your experience by clicking on the post below.

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Memories of an earthquake


The government’s chief volcanologist, Dr. Renato Solidum, isn’t one to dismiss the stories of survivors, especially in a country where earthquakes and typhoons happen regularly and, at times, in disastrous proportions.

“The narratives of survivors are important so that readers are made aware of how hazards are felt, how they can be affected, how they survived and coped with the disasters,” said Solidum, head of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs).

The book, “Our Common Fault,” complements the numerous scientific reports on the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that shook mainland Luzon on July 16, 1990.

It has been 26 years and Phivolcs still carries on its website (phivolcs.dost.gov.ph) the technical monograph made by an interagency committee that documented and established the database of that major incident.

Lia Pangilinan, a language and literature graduate and researcher, collated the stories and, in the process, got to know the destructive side of nature and the ordeal of the victims.

“I felt the trauma and suffering brought by this disaster through the stories I gathered from my interviewees. Now I understand, or I have begun to understand how the 1990 Luzon earthquake affected us all,” Pangilinan said, repeating her foreword during the launch of the book on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the June 15, 1991, eruption of Mt. Pinatubo.

The late Phivolcs chief, Dr. Raymundo Punongbayan, had said the 1990 quake disturbed the geological setting of the volcano, hastening the eruption, which became the world’s second largest in the 20th century after Mt. Novarupta in Alaska.

Published by Holy Angel University’s Center for Kapampangan Studies, “Our Common Fault” presents 79 narratives by 77 survivors and responders in the provinces of Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Pampanga and Bulacan in Central Luzon, La Union and Pangasinan in Ilocos region, Benguet and Baguio City in Cordillera, Nueva Vizcaya in Cagayan Valley, and Metro Manila.

Witnesses—even in journalism, courts and the church—bring honesty to experiences, Pangilinan said.

She wrote: “These stories are but a small portion of the collective voices of the survivors of the quake. These are their stories, which unraveled and wrote themselves, both of survival and loss. May this book help you further understand what they went through and why they all chose to stand back up on their feet and begin again.”


Ominous signs

The accounts referred to ominous signs of that Monday afternoon earthquake: Hens stretched their heads high, snakes slithered out and the air either felt heavy or too hot.

People felt the earth move sideways, then up and down, and in some accounts, moving in circles in under a minute, which made standing up or walking difficult.

They spoke of fright and panic from the aftershocks that followed the main shake. They saw bursting septic tanks and water pipes, of electric lines and poles swinging. Some heard an angry roar, prompting one to call it as the “end of the world.”

Esperanza Madolid, who came during the book’s launch, recalled the difficult but relentless search for a sister-in-law who was crushed in the rubble of the then Liwag College in Cabanatuan City in Nueva Ecija.

Mercenario Mallari reflected on a great loss, which was the complete destruction of the church in Carranglan town. “It was ruined but our faith wasn’t,” he wrote.

Florentino Concepcion believed the Child Jesus, Sto. Niño to Filipinos, was present during the search and rescue of people pinned by collapsed structures.

Randy Ryan Balaba said he was thankful that children these days were made to join earthquake drills, which were not done back in 1990.

Nheri Wong felt she was watching a disaster movie when she saw the Hyatt Terraces Baguio collapsed.

San Jose (Nueva Ecija) Archbishop Roberto Mallari said seminarians and nuns braved Baguio’s cold weather when they slept on the road for fear that the nuns’ convent would crumble.

Assumpta Tumada-Calano shared the heavy impact of losing her sister, Roochie, who was among those killed in Hyatt. “While some had been quick to recover, others took a longer time, and there were those who never did. With Roochie’s death, Papa never recovered. His health went downhill and he passed away three years after the earthquake,” she said.

Doing rescue at Klondike Camp 3 in Itogon, Benguet province, where Boy Scouts helped, Cecile Santos Yumul related: “We were heaving from the uphill climb and clay-heavy shoes and the stench of corpses which could only be compared to the stench of hundreds of dead rats.”

Laurie Ann Viduya, then 16, said: “Earthquakes have no manners, they are not nice and polite, they come when least expected and leave when they want to.”

She said she wished that like in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki where the United States dropped atomic bombs, survivors would come yearly and encourage the younger ones to not forget the July 16, 1990, earthquake.

Leia Fidelis Gisela Castro learned that “strength is not the only basis of survival, we need to have faith in God and in others, unity and cooperation to achieve our goals.”

Irene Blanco-Hamada said the family coped with the death of her brother, Tomas Carlo Blanco III, by “finding comfort in the thought that he loved life and lived it well.” He died under the rubble of Hotel Nevada where he managed a seminar hosted by his office, the Saint Louis University-Extension Institute for Small-Scale Industries.

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A companion book, “Histories in Memories: Remembering the July 16, 1990 Earthquake,” is a collection of personal experiences of 20 Baguio residents that, according to Prof. Anna Christie V. Torres, “constitute the healing but also the rebuilding of Baguio and its inhabitants.” The book was published in 2015 by the University of the Philippines Baguio’s Cordillera Studies Center.

The anthology consisted of stories of the 20 writers, including Baguio girls “barely of kindergarten age” when the earthquake occurred, on the visual images of the disaster.

Their memories of the earthquake, noted Torres, a former arts and communication dean of UP Baguio, would “help them relive this past and learn from it to be better informed and better prepared for the future.”

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Regional geodynamic implications of the May-July 1990 earthquake sequence in southern Sudan

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Lessons of 1990 earthquake lost on vulnerable Baguio

After the devastating earthquakes that struck Japan and New Zealand, volcanologists are drawing attention to the possibility of a big one hitting Baguio, considered one of the nation’s most geologically hazardous cities. But this densely populated highland metropolis lacks a comprehensive disaster management program and has in fact repeatedly failed to enforce rules that could mitigate disaster. Baguio sits on four major fault lines: Mirador, San Vicente, Loakan and Burnham, according to a study by University of the Philippines-Baguio geology professor Dymphna Nolasco Javier. Four other earthquake generator faults surround the city: San Manuel, Tuba, Tebbo, and Digdig, which generated the destructive 1990 earthquake. That earthquake toppled buildings in Baguio, including the five-star Hyatt Terraces Plaza where at least 80 people died. Across northern Luzon, the disaster killed 1,621 people. But more than two decades since that 7.7-magnitude earthquake, the country’s summer capital remains unprepared for catastrophes. This makes the city a disaster waiting in the wings, officials and residents alike fear. Bus crash in Sablan Baguio demonstrated its lack of disaster preparedness last August when a passenger bus plunged into a ravine in Sablan town 12 kilometers away. The City Disaster Operations Center (CDOC) responded with only five rescue kits in an attempt to save 50 lives. Only 10 passengers survived that accident. Looking back, more lives could have been saved had the CDOC team been better equipped, said CDOC head Archiemor Ellamil. The CDOC is the implementing arm of the City Disaster Coordinating Council, now renamed the City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council. The Sablan crash was not the only time that the center’s lack of equipment hampered rescue operations. At the height of typhoon “Pepeng" that slammed into northern Luzon in October 2009, the Office of Civil Defense-Cordillera (OCD-CAR) lent the city ropes and shovels because it did not have enough for the rescue operations, said OCD-CAR regional director Olive Luces, who considers the CDOC more of a communications group than an operations center. Janice Singiten, a CDOC volunteer for almost 10 years and who was part of the Sablan team, said the dismal absence of equipment somehow negates their rescue skills. The CDOC has only one ambulance and one pickup vehicle to respond to emergencies, she said. Yet the city has a population of 325,880 crammed into a space of only 55 square kilometers. Baguio’s population doubles during the summer, especially Lent. A geologically hazardous city About 90 percent of the city is vulnerable to natural hazards because of its unique topography, data from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources–Cordillera (DENR-CAR) reveal. Both Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology director Renato Solidum and DENR-CAR’s chief geologist Fay Apil do not rule out the possibility of a strong earthquake hitting Baguio again. In the 1980s, a study by DENR-CAR declared the city geologically hazardous because of its sensitivity to seismic shaking. Rain easily penetrates the ground because the soil is generally porous and permeable, making Baguio highly susceptible to landslides and earthquakes, the study further said. But residents continue to inhabit some of the most dangerous places in the city, such as Barangay Crystal Cave where 18 sinkholes have been identified. Some have even built houses directly above a sinkhole. Residents there have refused to vacate the area despite warnings, and even got the courts to issue temporary restraining orders that allowed them to stay put. Laxity in enforcing the zoning ordinance also exposes residents to more risks should a disaster strike. The zoning ordinance, for example, imposes a height limit of six stories for commercial buildings. But the same ordinance created the Local Zoning Board of Adjustment and Appeals that could exempt projects that supposedly will not adversely affect public health, safety and welfare, and will support economic-based activities. The board granted exemptions to 80 of the 119 requests filed from 2004 to 2008, a report showed. Hampered movement of fire trucks Zoning provisions on parking are also disregarded, especially within the central business district, resulting in vehicles clogging the city’s narrow thoroughfares. Traffic congestion has hampered the movement of fire trucks, said fire officer Arsenio Palongdosan, who drives the lone seven-drum capacity fire truck used for responding to fires in Baguio’s narrow alleys. Not that the city has enough fire stations and firefighting equipment. Baguio only has one main station near Camp Allen, one substation in Barangay Irisan and six fire trucks, one of which is not functioning. Under the city’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan for 2002 to 2008, four fire substations should have been built, but never were, in Aurora Hill, Crystal Cave, Dontogan and Pacdal, all high-density areas, during the period. From 2005 to 2007, 199 fire incidents were recorded in Baguio, 106 of them structural fires. These and other vulnerabilities make the adoption of a disaster management plan all the more necessary for Baguio. But the city does not have one, unlike neighboring Tuba and La Trinidad towns that, though poorer than Baguio, update their disaster management plans yearly. Signed in 1978 by then President Ferdinand Marcos, Presidential Decree 1566 called for the establishment of the national program on community disaster preparedness and directed local government executives through the City Coordinating Councils to organize their disaster preparedness plan. No disaster management plan In 1995, Baguio passed Ordinance No. 27 creating the City Disaster Operations Center (CDOC) but not a disaster management plan. Cornelia Lacsamana, head of the City Environment and Parks Management Office, said the city only has an action plan that is not extensive and just includes crowd control and fire safety situations. A disaster management plan could and should have been incorporated into the city’s Comprehensive Land-Use Plan, which itself needs updating, she said. Lacsamana also said, “We should have a disaster coordinating office year-round, with a well-trained technical man on top of the situation. It is easy to mobilize volunteers, but we do not have the technical capability." She said that all the people who work at the CDOC, save for Ellamil, remain volunteers and none of them are well-trained to handle disasters. Luces said the City Coordinating Council in Baguio hardly functions. She noted that a number of those in the council were put there only for compliance purposes and do not know what to do. “The council could’ve met earlier to mitigate the situation (during Pepeng), but they were not fully activated and the only visible entity then was the communications group. In terms of structure, it was not clear to everyone who’s going to do what," she said. Part of the CDOC’s job is to regularly conduct seminars, training courses and other mitigation measures in high-risk areas. Ellamil said the center has run disaster-preparedness seminars for barangay captains. Earthquake drills have not been conducted of late for businesses only because “new business establishments have not yet requested" for these, he said. But Luces said most of the center’s disaster-preparedness training activities and earthquake drills are actually projects of her office, the OCD-CAR, which fields all five of its regular officers for this purpose. She said the CDOC even tried to pass on to her office the expenses for training the responders. “We already orient them on how to conduct an earthquake drill, we shouldn’t be shouldering expenses like that," she said. Residents of Barangay Irisan interviewed for this report said they have not heard of a disaster-preparedness campaign or an earthquake-drill conducted by the CDOC in their area recently. Irisan, the most populated barangay in Baguio, lies in a high landslide-susceptible area. Luces also found the training for barangay captains ineffective. At the height of Pepeng, the OCD-CAR visited Camp Lagoon, so-called because of persistent flooding in the area. “CDOC assured me they were closely monitoring the flood level there. My team, however, found out the water level had already become alarming, so they tried to mitigate the situation by removing all the garbage they could, with their bare hands, while the barangay captain did nothing and merely looked to them to do the dirty work," said Luces. She added, “They need to have a disaster management office, put the right people there, (and) deploy the right people at the right place at the right time." Should an earthquake occur again, Phivolcs’ Solidum said its impact can be minimized if residents exposed to the natural hazards are aware of the risks and are prepared to respond to them. The key, he said, is awareness. Nobody from Baguio City showed up Apil, however, recalled that when the DENR-CAR invited local government units to an information education discussion before Pepeng struck, nobody from Baguio City showed up. Luces also lamented that invitations for a contingency planning session sent in 2010 to then Baguio Mayor Peter Rey Bautista went unheeded. But Evelyn Cayat, head of the City Planning and Coordination Office (CPCO) which is responsible for implementing the city’s Comprehensive Land-Use Plan, laughs off the possibility of a killer quake occuring soon. She cited a study that shows an earthquake of the same magnitude happening only every 80 years. She also insists: “We have a city disaster coordinating council. We also have an emergency medical service which is not present in other local government units. We are actually well-equipped to handle disasters." (Amer Amor, a masteral student at the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, wrote a longer version of this report for his Investigative Journalism class taught by VERA Files trustee Yvonne T. Chua. Amor teaches at UP Baguio. VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look into current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.")

1990 earthquake essay

In Valle de Vázquez, Mexico, a resident watches his house being demolished, four days after the 19 September 2017 earthquake. Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty

When does after begin?

Three earthquakes hit mexico city on the same date in 1985, 2017 and 2022. the coincidence left the city stranded in time.

by Lachlan Summers   + BIO

Shortly before 7:19am on 19 September 1985, time began to shift in Mexico City. It started with a tremor, emerging from the subduction zone on the Pacific coast, about 300 km southwest of the metropolis. The magnitude 7.4 quake took less than a minute to travel through the surface of southern Mexico before arriving beneath the city. Amplified by soft soils, it reached magnitude 8.1, killing, according to government data, around 10,000 people (the real number is likely much higher – perhaps as many as 40,000 people), and immediately causing 400 buildings to collapse (3,000 would eventually be demolished). Telephone lines went down, sewerage flooded the drinking water, roads into and out of the city became blocked. In the aftermath, up to 700,000 of the estimated 9.1 million residents in the Federal District of Mexico City were left homeless – the state response to the disaster was catastrophically incompetent. And behind it all, as the event recedes into memory, time itself began to take on ever-stranger forms.

During the following years, while city and federal governments grappled with the political fallout, the anniversary of the earthquake became a date on which the state expresses its contrition for the past and demonstrates its preparedness for the future. Every year since 1985, a minute’s silence is held on 19 September, followed by commemorative events, the unveiling of memorials and monuments, the inauguration of new preventative technologies and infrastructures, and the promulgation of risk-reduction legislation – all to ensure that similar disasters are avoided.

These state performances are also met with protests from residents demanding the government be held to account for rampant corruption in the real estate industry, which had led to the substandard construction in many of the collapsed buildings. In the early 1990s, evacuation drills were added to the commemorative events of 19 September. And in the early 2000s, these anniversary evacuations followed the sounding of the city’s Seismic Alert System ( Sistema de Alerta Sísmica Mexicano , or SASMEX), which was gradually being implemented across the metropolis. From loudspeakers on street corners, the alert begins as a pulsing, vibrating rhythm that is more eerie than alarming. Over this sound, a cold monotone voice repeats the words ‘ Alerta sísmica ’. The anniversary becomes a day for declaring that the events of 19 September 1985 will never happen again. It turns the earthquake into something to be memorialised: a historical event.

A ll that changed in 2017, when the alarm sounded twice on 19 September. Once for the memorial and commemorative evacuations, and then again, two hours later, for a devastating magnitude 7.1 earthquake that killed more than 300 people and levelled dozens of buildings. For the survivors, the coincidence begins to create profound temporal disorientation. How, survivors ask each other, could this be happening again? How could the two most devastating earthquakes in Mexico City’s history strike on the same date?

Some residents told me that when the second alarm sounded, they assumed it was another commemoration of the 1985 earthquake rather than a warning of a new tremor, and so they remained in their buildings until the city began to shake. Fernanda, a woman living in southern Mexico City, told me:

I simply could not believe it… I heard the alert and thought to myself: ‘That’s strange, another drill.’ I did not think: ‘That’s another earthquake.’ I guess I thought that earthquakes would only come [during the other] 364 days of the year.

The apparent impossibility of the coincidence wreaked havoc with the past and present: people ran home to check on their apartments, only to inadvertently run back in time to where they lived in 1985. My friend Eli told me that when the city’s second alert began sounding before the 2017 earthquake, he became ‘ atascado ’ (meaning stranded, as in jammed, stuck or overwhelmed). ‘Here was the alert saying that an earthquake will happen,’ he told me, shaking his head. ‘But a large part of me is just wondering: Where am I? Is this really happening? ’ Another friend, Carlos, described a similar sense of confusion. Earthquakes that were once separate Earthly events were now interconnected ‘reminders that the Earth is always happening to us’. And for Elena, whom I met in 2019 at a protest for still-homeless victims from the 1985 and 2017 disasters, the earthquakes never really ended. Though the tremors stopped, their effects lingered.

The unlikelihood of the coincidence showed that time was never really under human control

These responses all reflect a sensibility that is now common in Mexico City: when the 2017 earthquake struck, time itself shifted a little. Younger people, who ‘remember’ the 1985 disaster only through its annual commemoration, find themselves stranded between the inertia of human-historical time – of clocks, calendars and national anniversaries – and the demands of a looping geological moment. Since then, for many residents, it was as if the present became ceaseless and extensive, and the past and the future stopped being mutually exclusive temporal categories.

A 2020 survey by the newspaper El Financiero showed that Mexico City’s residents were particularly fearful of earthquakes. But, during my time in the city, I noticed that this fear was new and different: after the 2017 event, people had become more afraid of earthquakes. Like people living in other seismic zones, the city’s residents are accustomed to experiencing earthquakes, but the coincidence in 2017 proved too strange to simply consign to Earth’s arbitrary movements. Alongside the increased fear of seismicity, that same survey showed that much of the city is now frightened of 19 September – as a date . In the city’s collective imagination, the earthquakes that have occurred on other dates since 2017 are mere geological flotsam; 19 September, however, is a day that now belongs to Earth. Each anniversary, residents will attempt to either work from home, find open spaces away from buildings, or leave Mexico City entirely. All are worried about being caught somewhere precarious when the next 19 September arrives. And each year, fewer and fewer attend the protests, not because they are losing interest in justice for those who lost their homes in 2017, but because they are terrified of being in the city on the anniversary.

I am an anthropologist who writes about time, the state, and how people experience strange, inconceivable events. During the six years I conducted ethnographic research in Mexico City, I learned a little about how the geological coincidence in 2017 has shifted residents’ experience of time. One change is that the unlikelihood of the coincidence showed that time was never really under human control. Though a geological event can seem to have ended from a human perspective, it may, as Carlos told me, still be ongoing for Earth. In geological terms, the interval between 1985 and 2017 is just an instant. This dilation of human time by Earth becomes especially visceral as each anniversary approaches, and geological forces promise once again to gather human futures into an ongoing Earthly present. Though time might seem to be advancing for humans – the future becoming the present, the present the past – this temporal flow is contained in one duration for Earth: a long geological now. In the temporal imagination of Mexico City’s residents, it’s as if 19 September has become three things: a date on the calendar, a reminder of events in the City’s history, and a marker of the inhuman forces that have ravaged Earth in perpetuity. For many residents, the categories of past, present and future have become subject to the whims of a capricious Earth.

O pening a geology textbook unleashes a torrent of metaphor and analogy in which Earth appears to live and breathe. Slopes are described as ‘retreating’, mountains can be ‘revived’, streams ‘defeated’, plains ‘undulating’, walls ‘hanging’, glaciers ‘pulsating’ and rocks ‘fatigued’. As a descriptive science, noticing deep-time processes that appear static in human lifetimes – like the movements of tectonic plates – requires a turn to the metaphoric. Earthly metaphors seem to provide a sense of stability in our everyday lives that liquid metaphors can’t. We ‘lay the groundwork’ for plans; we seek a ‘sure footing’ or a ‘steady foundation’ on terra firma . Perhaps this sense of stability is why seismology offers such potent metaphors for massive, sudden or irreversible change. We might hear about ‘tectonic shifts’ in values and meanings, or entrenched political ‘fault lines’, or of an event’s inevitable ‘aftershocks’. This last metaphor, aftershock, is particularly malleable. It is used to describe post-traumatic stress disorder, interest rate rises, the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many other moments in which changes produce lasting effects. ‘Aftershock’ is a metaphor that locates an event by pointing to its consequences, using a linear imagination of time to move from cause to effect. But looking at the experience of aftershock sequences can open our imaginations to how time’s coherence is contingent upon the stability of an erratic Earth.

The term ‘aftershock’ comes from the Japanese seismologist Fusakichi Omori, who realised in 1895 that three major Japanese earthquakes – in Kumamoto (1889), Nōbi (1891) and Kagoshima (1893) – were in fact a single, staggered event. By identifying their contiguity, the similarity of their wave forms and other factors, he positioned these discrete events into an ongoing process that became known as the ‘aftershock sequence’. Omori’s Law, and Tokuji Utsu’s later amendments (known collectively as the Omori-Utsu Law) state that, after a shallow earthquake, the parts of the fault that slipped will readjust causing connected earthly movements, but over time, the probability of those events will diminish. In concrete terms, the likelihood of an aftershock the day after an earthquake will be half what it was the day of the earthquake, around one-tenth by the 10th day, and so on. In the mid-20th century, the Gutenberg-Richter Law added that the higher the magnitude of the mainshock, the more frequent and stronger are its aftershocks. Importantly, though aftershock timings, numbers and locations broadly conform to these statistical rules, they remain stochastic.

Paying attention to different forms of aftershock transforms the linear sequence of events into something strange and less determinate. Context renders metaphor uncanny . For instance, an important variable is the speed with which tectonic plates move. Along the San Andreas Fault, which moves around 37 mm per year, aftershock sequences tend to end about 10 years after an earthquake. In the New Madrid seismic zone of the eastern United States, however, tectonic plates move at close to 0.2 mm per year, so any earthquake that happened there before 2012 is considered an aftershock of an earthquake from 1812.

What might be ‘after’ for the city might still be ‘before’ for Earth

In the 14 months after the 1891 Nōbi earthquake in Japan, 3,090 aftershocks were recorded; by 1975, three to four still registered each year. Some seismologists theorise that the magnitude 7.6 earthquake that struck Chiloé Island in Chile in 2016 was an aftershock of the magnitude 9.5 Valdivia earthquake in 1960. Moreover, mainshocks will often be preceded by foreshocks. The 1960 Valdivia earthquake was preceded by a magnitude 8.1 earthquake 33 hours prior; likewise, the magnitude 9.2 Sumatran earthquake of 2004 might have been presaged by a magnitude 7.6 foreshock in 2002. It’s not hard to imagine that a foreshock of that severity would have been considered a mainshock until a larger earthquake occurred. For example, on 24 August 2016, the municipality of Accumoli in Italy was struck by a magnitude 6.2 earthquake. Thousands of aftershocks followed it, hundreds each day, some up to magnitude 5.5, with a generalised decay in frequency and force. Then, on 30 October, a magnitude 6.6 earthquake struck the region – an aftershock that repositioned the August mainshock as a foreshock.

An aftershock sequence has a slippery temporality, despite its use as a metaphor denoting a linear succession of events. The relationship between foreshock, mainshock and aftershock only becomes clear long after the extended event has died down, sometimes at a scale that troubles conceptions of causality. This form of seismic time is not knowable through the human experience of a single seismic event. Instead, it is a geological process instituted within an earthquake that endures beyond it, distributed across years or decades. Under such conditions, ideas like ‘past’ and ‘future’ are shifting, contingent categories. One cannot be sure if their ‘present’ is before or after a mainshock – before or after (or within) the geological ‘present’ of Earth.

This describes how many people have experienced the uncanny geological temporality of Mexico City. Though the 2017 earthquake was not an aftershock of the 1985 tremor, the unpredictable temporality of an aftershock sequence, particularly the notion of an uncertain ‘present’, is a means of understanding residents’ sense that geological time had displaced the time of Mexico City. What might be ‘after’ for the city might still be ‘before’ for Earth.

I was in Mexico City in 2021, in the weeks before 19 September. As the date approached, the sense of an uncertain present began to return once again. While travelling through the city, overhearing conversations or talking with friends, I began to get a sense of these growing temporal anxieties. Some residents began to worry that this 19 September would be Mexico City’s last.

Shortly before 9pm on 7 September, as I sat reading in the window of my apartment, with the buzz of fat summer raindrops filling the street below, I heard the speakers of the city’s early warning system suddenly crackle to life. The other residents and I ran downstairs to await the coming earthquake, which arrived 20 seconds or so later. The electricity immediately cut out as a magnitude 7.1 quake, with long, rolling waves, turned the city’s surface to a piece of fabric billowing in a gentle breeze. It lasted for around two minutes. Fortunately, despite its magnitude and duration, the earthquake caused little damage. But, climbing back to our apartment, I receive a text message from a friend: ‘No way, it’s September 7, again . ’ Four years earlier, the earthquake of 19 September 2017 had been prefigured by an earthquake on 7 September. The tremor we had just felt began to appear like a geological promise: a confirmation that Mexico City was headed for another disaster on 19 September 2021. We had 12 days.

The odds were so low that an earthquake would appear on the same date in 1985 and 2017 that some residents felt they had become exposed to a timescale that would make such geological coincidences possible. The unlikely becomes inevitable, precisely because of its improbability. And so, another earthquake was expected to arrive on 19 September 2021, and every other year since the 2017 coincidence.

Residents were convinced that the city’s repeating geological loop had initiated

Back in 2018, when the first anniversary of the 2017 quake approached (and the 33rd anniversary of 1985), a cartoon by Victor Solís was shared widely on social media, particularly in the WhatsApp group chats I shared with earthquake victims and their advocates. (Since then, Solís says, it ‘religiously wanders and arrives to him via WhatsApp on this day each year.’) The cartoon shows a man in pyjamas praying at the side of his bed on the evening before 19 September. The text at the base of the image, the man’s prayer, translates as ‘… and that tomorrow would be nothing more than just the drill.’

A cartoon depicts a man in his pyjamas praying beside his bed; a wall calendar displays the month of September

Cartoon by Victor Solís

This feeling underpinned the 12 days of expectation in 2021. Shortly after I received the message from my friend alerting me to the similarities with the 2017 earthquakes, a rumour went viral across Mexican social media reminding the city of its geological history. A common version of the message reads:

Do you want to scare yourselves? On 7 September 1985, there was a strong earthquake in Mexico City; on 19 September, an earthquake gravely damaged the heart of Mexico City. On 7 September 2017, Mexico City trembled hard; then, on 19 September, another earthquake shook Mexico. And today, 7 September, it just trembled very hard. Strange coincidences.

Residents were convinced that the city’s repeating geological loop had initiated. During the ominous 12 days between 7 and 19 September, Mexican seismologists appeared for interviews on television and in newspapers, reminding the city that Earth cares nothing for human calendars. Experts do this each September, but in 2021 they went so far as to publish seismograms showing unequivocally that there was no geological relationship between the dates 7 September and 19 September in 1985. Contrary to the rumours, there was no significant earthquake on 7 September 1985. And yet, despite the reassurances, the geological coincidence seems bound to return because Mexico City is in an ongoing geological present: after a before, but still before an after.

This expectation sometimes transforms anxiety into outright hysteria and panic. Upon hearing commemorative sounding of Mexico City’s earthquake alarm, some residents have nervous breakdowns, throw themselves out windows, or fall down stairs. Each year since 2019, the city’s governor has announced the number of injuries that the commemorative evacuation causes each anniversary. The double anniversary is so heavy with Earthly time and human history that it is as if, until 2017, 19 September was a date on which earthquakes couldn’t happen, but after 2017, it became a date on which they had to.

We wait nervously throughout the 12 days of anticipation in 2021. Ultimately, an earthquake doesn’t strike on 19 September. But relief is short-lived. Unfortunately for Mexico City, there is a 19 September every year, an annual promise that the city’s ‘after’ has yet to begin. We begin waiting and expecting. Will it happen again?

I n an earthquake, the time of Earth and the time of human experience intersect. As John McPhee suggests in Annals of the Former World (1998), thinking at these two timescales – ‘one human and emotional, the other geologic’ – induces a form of temporal schizophrenia because they are ‘so disparate’. Generally, the experience of geological time at a day-to-day level involves an abstracted, expanded frame of reference that demands leaps of imagination: Picture seeing emptiness where Mt Fuji once stood; envisage the landmass now known as India colliding with the continent of Asia; imagine the Himalayas swelling up. But in Mexico City post-2017, the peculiar convergence of these two timescales provokes a more visceral sense of Earthly forces that would otherwise remain abstract. This feeling of a deep-time present becomes especially acute on the most geologically unstable date in Mexican history.

On 19 September 2019, I stood alongside earthquake victim advocacy groups in Mexico City while we waited for the commemorative evacuation drill. When the alert began sounding, many around me put their fingers in their ears to drown out the robotic voice blandly repeating ‘ Alerta sísmica ’ over the ghostly, pulsating tone of the alarm. As if the early warning alert itself were somehow causal of earthquakes, a woman said under her breath: ‘ Que se quede tranquila la tierra hoy ’ (‘That the earth would remain tranquil today’) and we murmured our agreement until the alert drowned us out.

One explanation of these fears of 19 September might be that residents are experiencing a kind of seismic PTSD – a fearful response to a date marked by the human grief and suffering that a volatile Earth can deliver. This may be true to some extent, but understanding the experience of being ensnared in geological time as a form of trauma is insufficient. ‘Trauma’ can psychologise experiences, obscuring the important role of structural and environmental factors. Trauma can also be an elastic concept, capable of describing the experiences of – as Ruth Leys points out in her 2000 book – both the attendees of a wedding bombed by a drone, and the pilot who did the bombing. But most importantly, trauma has a linear temporality, especially in experiences of post -traumatic stress, in which a past event determines the future. This linear sense of time and history can reduce contemporary experience to an epiphenomenon of the past, which risks discounting the strangeness of the present in Mexico City. To view residents’ fears as seismic PTSD would also require overlooking what happened an hour or so after the commemorative alarm sounded on 19 September 2022.

These temporal geometries contort human history into strange and terrifying shapes

When the third 19 September earthquake happened, and the ground began to tremble, the city lost power. The magnitude 7.7 tremor was felt in 12 states, damaging buildings and killing two people. It was relatively minor compared with the earthquakes of 1985 and 2017 but, as the city shook for a third time, the temporality of trauma shifted: fears and anxieties that might have appeared to result from past disasters could no longer be considered ‘post-traumatic’ because the ‘post-’ had yet to begin. Human time was being swallowed by an abyssal geological present.

I ran to check on my apartment, then went to a cantina . With the power out, the bartenders were taking beers from their fridges and putting them in big buckets of ice on the street. Workers, holidaymakers, street vendors and police officers all sat on the footpath, drinking warm beer, and theorising what the hell was happening to Mexico City. There was a 0.026 per cent chance that the 2017 earthquake would happen on the anniversary of the 1985 disaster; we would later find out that the 2022 earthquake had about a 0.000751 per cent chance of happening. But for everyone I spoke with, its unlikelihood guaranteed that it would happen. The improbable was not impossible, least of all in Mexico City. I heard countless theories that explained the tremor: the city was in an Earthly loop, simply beyond human comprehension; residents’ fears of the date somehow manifested the earthquake; millions of people stomping out of their buildings during the commemorative evacuation upset the tectonic plates. But, above all, held the idea that Mexico City’s residents were justified in their fears: 19 September no longer belonged to humans, and the city had been set adrift in the time of Earth. Though the three 19 September tremors are not formally defined as an aftershock sequence, for some residents, it feels as if ‘after’ will never begin.

We are currently in a moment described as ‘the Anthropocene’, an epoch in which the actions of some humans register at the geological scale through traces of anthropogenic matter, such as nuclear radiation, plastics and carbon emissions. From this vantage, the future becomes an aftereffect of human action. But Mexico City, with its looping geology and its long 19 September, points toward a different relationship between the human and the geological, in which time itself is an effect of Earth.

For the city’s residents, the disaster of 1985 is in the past. The 2017 earthquake is in the past. Even the 2022 event is now in the past. But as these discrete events slip into human memory, all three are folded into Earth’s geological present. In Mexico City’s geological now, the relationship between past, present and future is not preordained, and these temporal geometries contort human history into strange and terrifying shapes. Mexico City’s time is dislocated, its residents stranded after what was prior but still before what might yet come. And 19 September is now, like its own axis of time, a yearly reminder that humans might not be in charge of when ‘after’ begins.

1990 earthquake essay

Folk music was never green

Don’t be swayed by the sound of environmental protest: these songs were first sung in the voice of the cutter, not the tree

Richard Smyth

1990 earthquake essay

Nations and empires

A United States of Europe

A free and unified Europe was first imagined by Italian radicals in the 19th century. Could we yet see their dream made real?

Fernanda Gallo

1990 earthquake essay

Stories and literature

On Jewish revenge

What might a people, subjected to unspeakable historical suffering, think about the ethics of vengeance once in power?

Shachar Pinsker

1990 earthquake essay

Building embryos

For 3,000 years, humans have struggled to understand the embryo. Now there is a revolution underway

John Wallingford

1990 earthquake essay

Consciousness and altered states

How perforated squares of trippy blotter paper allowed outlaw chemists and wizard-alchemists to dose the world with LSD

1990 earthquake essay

Last hours of an organ donor

In the liminal time when the brain is dead but organs are kept alive, there is an urgent tenderness to medical care

Ronald W Dworkin

Significant Earthquakes - 1990

What makes an earthquake "significant".

Events in this list and shown in red on our real-time earthquake map and list are considered “significant events’, and they are determined by a combination of magnitude, number of Did You Feel It responses, and PAGER alert level.

mag_significance = magnitude * 100 * (magnitude / 6.5); pager_significance = red is 2000 : orange is 1000 : yellow is 500 : green is 0; dyfi_significance = min(num_responses, 1000) * max_cdi / 10;

significance = max(mag_significance, pager_significance) + dyfi_significance;

Any event with a significance > 600 is considered a significant event and appears on the list.

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Earthquake Essay

Essay on Earthquake - An earthquake is a natural disaster that occurs when two tectonic plates collide. The force of the collision creates seismic waves that travel through the earth's crust, causing the ground to shake and buildings to collapse. Here are some sample essays on earthquakes.

  • 100 Words Essay on Earthquake

Earthquakes can happen anywhere in the world, and although their occurrence is not predictable, there are some things you can do to make yourself more prepared in case one does strike. This includes having an earthquake kit ready to go, knowing how to drop, cover and hold on, and staying informed about any potential risks in your area. Make sure you have an emergency kit stocked with food, water, and other supplies, and know what to do when an earthquake hits. If you're not sure what to do, it's best to stay away from windows and other objects that could fall on you, and head to a safe place.

200 Words Essay on Earthquake

500 words essay on earthquake.

Earthquake Essay

Earthquakes are a natural disaster that come with a lot of dangers. The shaking and movement of the earth can cause buildings to fall down, trapping people inside. The shaking caused by such a sudden change is usually very minor, but large earthquakes sometimes cause very large shaking of the land. The shaking waves spread from the spot at which rock begins breaking for the first time; this spot is called the center, or hypocenter, of an earthquake.

If you're inside when an earthquake starts, drop to the ground and cover your head. The earthquake's magnitude is related to the amount of earthquake energy released in a seismic event.

Different Types of Earthquakes

There are three types of earthquakes:

Shallow | A shallow earthquake is when the earthquake's focus is close to the surface of the Earth. These earthquakes are usually less powerful than the other two types, but can still cause a lot of damage.

Intermediate | Intermediate earthquakes have a focus that's located between the surface and the Earth's mantle, and are usually more powerful than shallow earthquakes.

Deep | Deep earthquakes have a focus that's located in the mantle, which is the layer of the Earth below the crust. They're the most powerful type of earthquake, and can even cause damage on the surface.

An earthquake can cause damage to buildings and bridges; interrupt gas, electrical, and telephone services; and occasionally trigger landslides, avalanches, flash flooding, wildfires, and massive, destructive waves of water over oceans (tsunamis).

The Dangers Associated With Earthquakes

The shaking of the ground can cause objects to fall off shelves and injure people. If you're outside when an earthquake starts, move away from tall buildings, streetlights and power lines.

An earthquake can also cause a tsunami, or a large wave, to form and crash onto the shore. Tsunamis can be very dangerous and can reach heights of over 100 feet.

How to Prepare for an Earthquake

When an earthquake is imminent, your first step should be to find a safe spot. The most ideal spots are under sturdy furniture or inside door frames. It is best to stay away from windows and anything that can fall over.

Once you've found the safest place, it's time to prepare for the shaking. Grab some blankets, pillows and helmets if possible – all of which can provide extra cushioning against falling objects.

Additionally, you should always keep an eye out for debris that could cause injuries, such as broken glass and sharp objects.

Finally, stay calm until the shaking stops, and monitor local news reports for additional information on how best to handle the situation.

What to do During an Earthquake

The moment an earthquake hits, it is important to stay as calm and collected as possible. Safety is the first priority so you must stay away from windows and furniture that can fall on you, and protect your head with your arms if needed.

If an earthquake occurs while you are indoors, stay away from anything that could fall or break such as windows, mirrors, or furniture. Do not run outdoors as shaking can cause glass and other materials to fall from the building structure. Instead, seek shelter under sturdy tables or desks. If there is no furniture available, move to a corner of the room and crouch down protectively with your arms over your head and neck.

It's also important to take note of any gas lines that could be affected during an earthquake and shut them off if necessary in order to prevent fires from breaking out due to exposed pipes.

After the Earthquake: Recovery and Assistance

When the shaking stops, there will be a period of recovery.

Don't enter any building if it has visible damage due to the earthquake - it's better to be safe than sorry.

You should contact local aid organisations like the Red Cross for additional help with sheltering, water, food and other essentials.

Stay in touch with local officials about any services provided for those affected by the earthquake.

Make sure you also have a plan for what to do if you're stuck in an earthquake, and know how to get in touch with loved ones in case of an emergency.

By being prepared and knowing what to do, you can help ensure that you and your loved ones are safe in the event of an earthquake.

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Earthquake Essay for Students and Children

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500+ Words Essay on Earthquake

Simply speaking, Earthquake means the shaking of the Earth’s surface. It is a sudden trembling of the surface of the Earth. Earthquakes certainly are a terrible natural disaster. Furthermore, Earthquakes can cause huge damage to life and property. Some Earthquakes are weak in nature and probably go unnoticed. In contrast, some Earthquakes are major and violent. The major Earthquakes are almost always devastating in nature. Most noteworthy, the occurrence of an Earthquake is quite unpredictable. This is what makes them so dangerous.

1990 earthquake essay

Types of Earthquake

Tectonic Earthquake: The Earth’s crust comprises of the slab of rocks of uneven shapes. These slab of rocks are tectonic plates. Furthermore, there is energy stored here. This energy causes tectonic plates to push away from each other or towards each other. As time passes, the energy and movement build up pressure between two plates.

Therefore, this enormous pressure causes the fault line to form. Also, the center point of this disturbance is the focus of the Earthquake. Consequently, waves of energy travel from focus to the surface. This results in shaking of the surface.

Volcanic Earthquake: This Earthquake is related to volcanic activity. Above all, the magnitude of such Earthquakes is weak. These Earthquakes are of two types. The first type is Volcano-tectonic earthquake. Here tremors occur due to injection or withdrawal of Magma. In contrast, the second type is Long-period earthquake. Here Earthquake occurs due to the pressure changes among the Earth’s layers.

Collapse Earthquake: These Earthquakes occur in the caverns and mines. Furthermore, these Earthquakes are of weak magnitude. Undergrounds blasts are probably the cause of collapsing of mines. Above all, this collapsing of mines causes seismic waves. Consequently, these seismic waves cause an Earthquake.

Explosive Earthquake: These Earthquakes almost always occur due to the testing of nuclear weapons. When a nuclear weapon detonates, a big blast occurs. This results in the release of a huge amount of energy. This probably results in Earthquakes.

Get the huge list of more than 500 Essay Topics and Ideas

Effects of Earthquakes

First of all, the shaking of the ground is the most notable effect of the Earthquake. Furthermore, ground rupture also occurs along with shaking. This results in severe damage to infrastructure facilities. The severity of the Earthquake depends upon the magnitude and distance from the epicenter. Also, the local geographical conditions play a role in determining the severity. Ground rupture refers to the visible breaking of the Earth’s surface.

Another significant effect of Earthquake is landslides. Landslides occur due to slope instability. This slope instability happens because of Earthquake.

Earthquakes can cause soil liquefaction. This happens when water-saturated granular material loses its strength. Therefore, it transforms from solid to a liquid. Consequently, rigid structures sink into the liquefied deposits.

Earthquakes can result in fires. This happens because Earthquake damages the electric power and gas lines. Above all, it becomes extremely difficult to stop a fire once it begins.

Earthquakes can also create the infamous Tsunamis. Tsunamis are long-wavelength sea waves. These sea waves are caused by the sudden or abrupt movement of large volumes of water. This is because of an Earthquake in the ocean. Above all, Tsunamis can travel at a speed of 600-800 kilometers per hour. These tsunamis can cause massive destruction when they hit the sea coast.

In conclusion, an Earthquake is a great and terrifying phenomenon of Earth. It shows the frailty of humans against nature. It is a tremendous occurrence that certainly shocks everyone. Above all, Earthquake lasts only for a few seconds but can cause unimaginable damage.

FAQs on Earthquake

Q1 Why does an explosive Earthquake occurs?

A1 An explosive Earthquake occurs due to the testing of nuclear weapons.

Q2 Why do landslides occur because of Earthquake?

A2 Landslides happen due to slope instability. Most noteworthy, this slope instability is caused by an Earthquake.

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Earthquake and Structural Engineer

Historical Earthquakes in Nepal: Overview

1990 earthquake essay

Nepal lies in the central part of Himalaya Range, one of the most seismically active zones in the world. Nepal has a long history of devastating earthquake. The reason behind this is the subduction of Indian plate underneath the Eurasian plate. This subduction causes convergence which is absorbed by convergence across the plate boundary resulting different magnitude earthquake. This article provides a brief overview of the destructive earthquakes that have happened in the past.

1255 A.D. / 1310 B.S. (7.8)

This is the earliest record of an earthquake in Nepal. Many people died in the wreckage of temples and houses. Nearly one-third population of Kathmandu Valley including, the then King, Abhaya Malla, was killed in the earthquake. There were frequent tremors for 15 days. The magnitude is said to be around 7.8 in Richter scale.

1260 A.D. / 1316 B.S. (7.1)

This earthquake occurred during the reign of King Jayadev Malla. Many people were killed, followed by widespread epidemics and famines. Damage has been caused to residential buildings, monumental and architectural heritage.

1408 A.D. / 1463 B.S. (8.2)

It occurred during the rule of King Shyam Singh. The temple of Machhendranath, and many other temples and houses were destroyed. The land was split wide open, causing a heavy loss of lives and property.

1681 A.D. / 1737 B.S. (8.0)

This earthquake destroyed many buildings. The King of the time was Sri Niwas Malla.

1810 A.D. / 1866 B.S.

This earthquake occurred during the reign of King Grivan Yudhha Bikram Shah. Houses were destroyed and some lives lost. It is believed to have 21 tremors that day.

1823 A.D. / 1880 B.S.

There was no reported loss of human life or livestock, but 17 moderate shocks were felt in the Kathmandu Valley.

1833 A.D. / 1890 B.S. (M s 8.0)

On Monday, 28 th August, 1833, Kathmandu valley was hit by a strong earthquake at 6 pm, earthquake lasted for 40 seconds, followed by a tremor of equal intensity at 11 pm. The event was followed by 23 shocks during the night. Aftershocks were felt for some days. Many houses, mansions and temple were destroyed. The recently built temple of Jagannath, built 35 years before the event, which was 100 feet tall was totally destroyed. The tower of Dharahara was severely damaged.

The tremors were felt up to Kuti in the north, Makwanpur in the south, Bijayapur in the east, and Gorakhpur in the west. In Kathmandu valley most destruction was done at Bhaktapur and Thimi. It was estimated that 18,000 houses were destroyed in the country, 4,214 of which were in the three cities of the Kathmandu Valley.

1934 A.D. / 1990 B.S. (M w 8.1)

The Great Nepal-Bihar earthquake of 1990 B.S. is one the worst earthquake in the history of Nepal. This earthquake occurred on 15 th January, 1934 at 2:24:22 pm NST. The epicenter for this event was located in eastern Nepal about 9.5 km (5.9 mi) south of Mount Everest.

The earthquake had a significant effect on both life and property. Thousands of people were trapped in the debris and died untimely, and thousands of others were injured. A total of 8,519 people died including two of the then King’s daughter (10 and 8 years old) due to the earthquake. Both the Dharahara Tower and the clock tower fall into pieces. Cracks emerged in the fields and on the roads on which water began to rise. It was said that in some areas hot water and sand came out of the cracks in the ground. On the roads of Balaju and near Sankhamul, the ground subsided for 2 to 3 feet. There were very few roads without cracks in the valley. Life line including electricity, Birgunj-Raxaul railway, transportation, and ropeway were all disturbed.

1990 earthquake essay

Table: The Death Toll

Table: The Material Loss

Source: The Great Earthquake in Nepal 1934 A.D. by Brahma Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana.

1980 A.D. / 2037 B.S. (M s 6.5)

The M6.5 earthquakes affected mostly the far western portion of Nepal mainly Baitadhi, Bajhang and Darchula. 125 people lost their lives, 248 were seriously injured. 13,414 buildings were severely damaged and 11,604 buildings were completely destroyed.

1988 A.D. / 2045 B.S. (M 6.9)

This is also called Udaipur Earthquake, occurred on August 21, 1988, at 4:54 a.m. NST, with M6.9 affected mostly the eastern region of the country (22 district of eastern region) and some part of the central region. Earthquake resulted in 721 deaths, 6553 serious injuries, and damages in 64174 private buildings, 468 public houses, and 790 government buildings. It was estimated to have a direct loss of 5 billion rupees.

2011 A.D. / 2068 B.S. (M 6.9)

The M6.9 earthquake, occurred on September 18, 2011, at 6:25 p.m. NST, with the epicenter near the border of Nepal and the Indian state of Sikkim. As reported by Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of Nepal, six deaths and 30 injuries were recorded in Nepal. Out of six deaths, two were in the Kathmandu valley and the other deaths were in eastern mountains, where building collapse and severe damage was dominant. As many as 12,301 people from 4851 families were reported to be displaced due to this earthquake. In total, 6,435 buildings collapsed, 11,520 were moderately damaged, and 3,024 buildings sustained minor damage in Nepal.

2015 A.D. / 2072 B.S. (M w 7.8)

The Gorkha earthquake occurred on 25 April 2015, roughly 80 km N-NE of Kathmandu. The epicenter was in the village of Barpak in the Gorkha district, and the damage was concentrated mostly to the east of the epicenter. The main shock of April 25, 2015 (MW 7.8) was followed by a strong aftershock of magnitude 6.7 on the same day. In addition, on 26 April 2015, another strong aftershock of magnitude 6.9 hit central Nepal and the strongest aftershock (MW 7.3) of the Gorkha seismic sequence was reported on 12 May 2015. Damage due to the Gorkha earthquake was related to these four major earthquakes in central Nepal, which resulted in 8856 deaths, 22,309 injuries and affected 8 million people in 31 out of 75 districts in Nepal. The Gorkha earthquake caused damage to buildings and lifelines, such as road networks, hydropower projects and water supply systems. The Post-Disaster Need Assessment undertaken by the National Planning Commission of Nepal reported that the overall loss due to the Gorkha earthquake was $7 billion (USD; NPC, 2015). Fourteen out of 75 districts in Nepal were declared a crisis hit zone by the government immediately after the earthquake.

1990 earthquake essay

Source: Revisiting Major Historical Earthquakes in Nepal: Overview of 1833, 1934, 1980, 1988, 2011, and 2015 Seismic Events.

A useful video explaining science behind devastating Nepal earthquake.

  • Nepal ko Mahabhukampa 1990 By Brahma Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana
  • Lecture slides by Dr. Rishi Ram Prajuli
  • Gorkha Earthquake2015: Cause and Effect by Dr. Basanta Raj Adhikari
  • Revisiting Major Historical Earthquakes in Nepal: Overview of 1833, 1934, 1980, 1988, 2011, and 2015 Seismic Events. By Hemchandra Chaulagain1, Dipendra Gautam2 and Hugo Rodrigues3

13 thoughts on “Historical Earthquakes in Nepal: Overview”

Very informative article…

Thank you brother.

Great one and would have been better even if you have mentioned some about post disaster recovery and reconstruction.

Thank you for your suggestion. I tried making this one really short. I shall try writing another post related to that.

Thank you for the great info

Thank you ☺️

Thank you 😊

Right on point. 👍

Well managed information .Really inspired by your effort

Thank you sir.

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    One of the largest earthquakes ever recorded in Africa (surface wave magnitude Ms = 7.2) occurred about 50 kilometers east of the Upper River Nile on 20 May 1990. Four days later, two more large earthquakes ( Ms = 6.4 and 7.0) occurred about 50 kilometers to the northwest in the Nile Valley. In the following months, a further 60 events were ...

  17. 1990 Bohol Sea earthquake

    The 1990 Bohol earthquake occurred on February 8, 1990 at 15:15:32 which had a magnitude of 6.8 M w . The earthquake had a moderate depth of 25.9 km (16 mi). Most of the damage was observed in the province of Bohol. A tsunami hit the southeastern coastline of Bohol and the island of Camiguin. There were 6 deaths, over 200 injuries and an estimated ₱157 million ($7 million) in total damage ...

  18. Significant Earthquakes

    What makes an earthquake "significant"? Events in this list and shown in red on our real-time earthquake map and list are considered "significant events', and they are determined by a combination of magnitude, number of Did You Feel It responses, and PAGER alert level. Here is the equation: mag_significance = magnitude * 100 * (magnitude ...

  19. 1990 South Sudan earthquakes

    May 24 foreshock. At 19:34:44 on May 24, 1990, another large earthquake struck southern South Sudan. It occurred at a depth of 10-14 km (6.2-8.7 mi) with a mb of 6.1, M s of 6.5-6.8 and (M w ) of 6.5-6.6. [2] [3] [4] [1] The focal mechanism solution varies, with some showing the earthquake being the result of normal dip-slip faulting, while ...

  20. Earthquake Essay in English

    500 Words Essay on Earthquake. An earthquake can cause damage to buildings and bridges; interrupt gas, electrical, and telephone services; and occasionally trigger landslides, avalanches, flash flooding, wildfires, and massive, destructive waves of water over oceans (tsunamis). The Dangers Associated With Earthquakes.

  21. Earthquake Essay for Students and Children

    500+ Words Essay on Earthquake. Simply speaking, Earthquake means the shaking of the Earth's surface. It is a sudden trembling of the surface of the Earth. Earthquakes certainly are a terrible natural disaster. Furthermore, Earthquakes can cause huge damage to life and property.

  22. Essay on Earthquakes: Top 5 Essays on Earthquakes

    Essay # 2. Causes of Earthquakes: . Earthquakes are caused mainly due to disequi­librium in any part of the crust of the earth. A number of causes have been assigned to cause disequilibrium or isostatic imbalance in the earth's crust such as volcanic eruptions, faulting and folding, up-warping and down-warping, gaseous expansion and contraction inside the earth, hydrostatic pressure of man ...

  23. Essay on Earthquake: Top 10 Essays on Earthquake

    Essay # 1. Introduction to Earthquake: We know that various forces of nature are responsible for changes in the crust of the earth. Earthquake is a movement of tremor of the earth's crust. It originates naturally and below the surface. It sometimes causes a permanent change of level at the surface of the earth.

  24. Regional geodynamic implications of the May-July 1990 earthquake

    A second set REGIONAL GEODYNAMIC IMPLICATIONS OF THE 1990 EARTHQUAKES IN SUDAN 91 of striations suggests that the stress field in this area may have rotated to a normal faulting regime, with o-i tilting to the vertical position whilst 0-3 turned to a N-S trend. In any case, the NW-SE striking Nandi fault displayed a left-lateral strike-slip ...

  25. Historical Earthquakes in Nepal: Overview

    1934 A.D. / 1990 B.S.(Mw 8.1) The Great Nepal-Bihar earthquake of 1990 B.S. is one the worst earthquake in the history of Nepal. This earthquake occurred on 15 th January, 1934 at 2:24:22 pm NST. The epicenter for this event was located in eastern Nepal about 9.5 km (5.9 mi) south of Mount Everest.