1977 Vrancea earthquake
|Date||Friday, 4 March 1977|
|Origin time||19:21:54.3 (UTC)|
|Total damage||US$ 2.048 billion|
|Max. intensity||IX (violent)|
|Casualties||1,578 dead, 11,221 injured in Romania
120 dead, 165 injured in Bulgaria
2 dead in Moldova
The 1977 Vrancea Earthquake occurred on Friday, 4 March 1977, 21:20 local time and was felt throughout the Balkans. It had a magnitude of 7.2 with an epicenter in Vrancea (in the Eastern Carpathians) at a depth of 94 kilometers (58 mi).
The earthquake killed about 1,578 people (1,424 in Bucharest) in Romania, and wounded more than 11,300. Among the victims was the Romanian actor Toma Caragiu. Nicolae Ceaușescu suspended his official trip to Nigeria.
About 35,000 buildings were damaged, and the total damage was estimated at more than two billion dollars. Most of the damage was concentrated in Romania's capital, Bucharest, where about 33 large buildings collapsed. Most of those buildings were built before World War II, and were not reinforced. After the earthquake, the Romanian government imposed tougher construction standards.
In Bulgaria, the earthquake is known as the Vrancea Earthquake or Svishtov Earthquake. Three blocks of flats in the Bulgarian town of Svishtov (near Zimnicea) collapsed, killing more than 100 people. Many other buildings were damaged, including the Church of the Holy Trinity. In the Soviet Republic of Moldova the earthquake destroyed and damaged many buildings. In the capital Kishinev, a panic broke out.
Damage and casualties
The earthquake of 4 March 1977 was one of the worst earthquake disasters of the 1970s around the world. It caused the loss of 1,578 lives and injured an additional 11,221, with 90% of the fatalities being in the capital city Bucharest. The reported damages included 32,897 collapsed or demolished dwellings, 34,582 homeless families, 763 industrial units affected and many other damages in all sectors of the economy. A 1978 World Bank report estimated a total loss of US$2.048 billion, with Bucharest accounting for 70% of the total, i.e. US$1.4 billion. According to this report, out of Romania's 40 counties, 23 were strongly affected.
|Intensity of shaking||Location||Epicentral distance||Focal distance1|
1Based on focal depth of 110 km
A number of 32 buildings of 8–12 storey collapsed in the central part of city, while about 150 old buildings of 4–6 storey high were strongly damaged. Almost all the collapsed buildings had been built between 1920 and 1940 without earthquake resistant design. There was also the collapse of 3 public buildings (Ministry of Metallurgy, Faculty of Chemistry and Computer Centre) that due to the time of occurrence were not heavily occupied. On 5 March, the first toll of the disaster indicates 508 fatalities and 2,600 injuries. A final toll showed that 90% of the victims were from Bucharest: 1,424 deaths and 7,598 injuries.
No critical fires occurred, but electrical power was lost in large areas of the city for about a day. Nine of 35 hospitals were evacuated.
Other Romanian cities
In the cities of Focșani and Buzău, unreinforced masonry walls in low-rise construction collapsed partially or totally, and there were signs of movement between structural elements and adjacent masonry in-fill walls in recently constructed engineered buildings.
The city of Zimnicea was reported in ruins: 175 houses collapsed, while 523 sustained serious damage, 4,000 people were displaced, and there were hundreds of victims. Inasmuch as 80% of the city was destroyed, Zimnicea was rebuilt from the ground. In Craiova, more than 550 buildings were severely damaged, among them the Museum of Art, the Oltenia Museum, the University and the County Library. Initial estimates indicate a total of 30 dead and 300 wounded. Vaslui also suffered heavy losses, both human – 7 people dead, and material.
In Ploiești were destroyed around 200 homes, a further 2,000 were seriously damaged; the situation was also serious in Buzău County, where about 1,900 buildings were affected. In Plopeni, a Worker's Dormitory made of masonry totally collapsed, killing 30 to 60 workers and injuring many. Counties in Transylvania and Dobrogea showed no serious damage.
The earthquake induced geomorphological phenomena in southern, eastern and northern Wallachia, as well as southern Moldavia. These consisted in landslides, liquefaction, settlements, water spurting; in Vrancea Mountains, the course of Zăbala River was partially blocked, forming a small natural dam lake.
The earthquake of 4 March was heavily impacted in Bulgaria. The city of Svishtov was the most affected. Here, three blocks of flats collapsed, killing up to 120 people, among them 27 children. Many other buildings were damaged, including the Church of the Holy Trinity.
The earthquake epicenter was located in the south-west part of Vrancea County, the most active seismic area in Romania, at a depth of about 94 km (58 mi). The shock wave was felt in almost all countries in the Balkan Peninsula, as well as Soviet republics of Ukraine and Moldavia, albeit with a lower intensity. Seismic movement was followed by aftershocks of low magnitude. The strongest aftershock occurred on the morning of 5 March 1977, at 02:00 AM, at a depth of 109 km (68 mi), with a magnitude was 4.9 on the Richter scale. Other aftershocks' magnitudes did not exceed 4.3 or 4.5 Mw.
At the time of the earthquake, Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu were in an official visit to Nigeria. Ceaușescu heard about the disaster in the country from a Romanian official.
Initially, news about the earthquake were confusing, and people talked about a much larger catastrophe. Due to a power failure in Bucharest, communication services weren't run for several hours. The population took to the streets, scared of possible aftershocks. At that moment, authorities had not taken any concrete steps.
There were rescue teams from all blocks destroyed. Doctors, soldiers, men of different professions were presented at work. Nine hospitals were decommissioned. Floreasca Emergency Hospital in Bucharest, although seriously damaged, was taken by storm. Subsequently, it was evacuated. The Dinamo Stadium was turned into a triage point for the wounded. By the morning of March 5 work was underway on rehabilitating basic utilities – water, gas, telephony, electricity.
After reconnecting with the country, Nicolae Ceaușescu imposed the state of emergency throughout the country. The presidential couple and Romanian delegation in Nigeria returned to Romania during the night of 4 to 5 March 1977. In the following days, the Head of State conducted visits to Bucharest to assess damage.
Teams of military and firefighters responsible for the rescue of possible survivors received aid from the Red Cross. They were joined by the Buftea film studio stuntsmen and many volunteers. Many people were rescued from the ruins, some after several days of being trapped.
Personalities killed in the earthquake
- The Bulgarian film Sweet and Bitter was aired by TVR 1 and has remained linked to the earthquake in the mind of Romanians.
- November 10, 1940, Vrancea earthquake, striking Bucharest with a magnitude of 7.4 to 7.7.
- "Cutremurul din 1977", Comunismul în România
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- Earthquake in Romania, March 4, 1977: An Engineering Report. 1980. p. 15.
- "Se împlinesc 34 de ani de la marele cutremur din 1977". Ziare.com (in Romanian). 4 March 2011.
- "Vrancea Romania 1977 (CAR)". GEM Earthquake Consequences Database.
- Cornel Ilie. "Cutremurul din 4 martie 1977 - 55 de secunde de coșmar". Historia.ro (in Romanian).
- Neculai Mândrescu, Mircea Radulian, Gheorghe Mărmureanu, Bogdan Grecu (16 October 2006). "Large Vrancea intermediate depth earthquakes and seismic microzonation of Bucharest urban area". Horia Hulubei National Institute of Physics and Nuclear Engineering.
- Dan Lungu. "Seismic risk mitigation in the Romania - Synergy from international projects". UNISDR.
- "RAPORT DE ȚARĂ. Orașul Zimnicea, reconstruit din temelii după cutremurul din 1977". Digi24 (in Romanian). 12 June 2013.
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- "Cutremurul din 4 martie 1977". Cutremur.net (in Romanian). 3 March 2014.
- "Svishtov commemorates memory of 1977 earthquake victims". Radio Bulgaria. 4 March 2012.
- "Cutremurul din 4 martie 1977 - 37 de ani de la seismul care a făcut peste 1.500 de morți. Înregistrare audio realizată în timpul cutremurului". Gândul (in Romanian). 4 March 2013.
- "5 martie 1977, la o zi după cutremur", Museum of Photography
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- "4 martie 1977, ziua în care România a fost zguduită", Jurnalul.ro
- IMDb, "Sweet and Bitter"
- 30 de ani de la marea zguduială, Florentina Stoian, Adevărul, 3 March 2007