Natural disasters in the Azores

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The following is a list of notable natural disasters have affected the Azores:

15th century[edit]

  • Around 1432: First recorded famine in the Azores.
  • 14391444 (undocumented): Volcanic eruption on São Miguel at Sete Cidades; details of the eruption were not recorded, not even the exact date of the event. Father Gaspar Frutuoso, who referenced the event in Saudades da Terra, noted that the inhabitants discovered that the topography of the eastern part of the island had changed radically, and that tree trunks and pumice were found floating in the ocean. Colonists from the settlement in what is now Povoação (in the eastern half of the island) heard sounds of explosions and felt many earthquakes leading to this event: "living, these discoverers, in their straw huts, they heard in the space of a year such great grinding, rattling and explosion of the earth with great tremors proceeding the subversion and fire of the peak..."
  • 1460?: Another volcanic eruption at Sete Cidades, São Miguel. No specific information was recorded at the time.

16th century[edit]

  • 1522: Considered the seminal disaster of the Azores, the 1522 earthquake and landslide occurred on 20 October 1522, that inundated and destroyed much of the provincial capital of Vila Franca do Campo, on the island of São Miguel.[1][2] On the night of 21 and 22 October 1522, another violent earthquake brought down a great mudslide from the hills around Vila Franca do Campo, causing damage to the majority of the town and causing the burial alive of 5000 residents and nobles, with the Donatary-Captain Rui Gonçalves da Câmara escaping the event, owing to his stay in his summer cottage in Lagoa.[1] Later writing, the Bishop of Angra described how the mountains of Rabaçal and Louriçal had fallen and buried 4-5 thousand people.[3] Large mudslides also occurred in Maia, an area near Ponta Garça. The phenomena at Vila Franca inspired many writings, including one that has oral roots, entitled Novel of Vila Franca (Romance de Vila Franca), by Teófilo Braga, and had the effect of inspiring renew devotion to the religious celebrations of the Holy Spirit.[3]
  • 1523-1530: An epidemic plague ravaged the island of São Miguel, and the island became isolated for a few years. The plague also reached Faial Island.
  • 1538: A volcanic eruption centered on the cay of Ferraria, São Miguel. In that year, an underwater eruption in the proximity of Ponta da Ferraria lasted for nearly a month. The eruption resulted in the appearance of a small island of "one league in circumference" that shortly disappeared. The eruption caused no damage on land.
  • 1547: An earthquake rocked the northeastern part of Terceira Island. It happened on 17 May and damaged Raminho, (Folhadais), Altares, and Biscoitos.
  • 15621564: A volcanic eruption on Prainha do Norte, Pico Island. On 21 September 1562, tremors that lasted for a "third of an hour" shook the land, and they were followed by a bang. An interesting contemporaneous description of the eruption still exists; people in the town of Velas on São Jorge Island observed it.
  • 1563: Volcanic eruption at Lagoa do Fogo, São Miguel. The eruption began on 29 June, and five violent earthquakes shook the area. There was enormous destruction on the island. The violent eruption ended on 3 July. The activity was a Plinian eruption.
  • 1563: A volcanic eruption on São Miguel, almost simultaneous with the eruption on Lagoa do Fogo, caused a strombolian eruption in Pico do Sapateiro parish of Ribeira Seca. The peak was a dome located near the graben of Ribeira Grande where a lagoon used to exist. The volcano spewed large amounts of very fluid basaltic lava. An historian wrote in full detail about the eruption; it is included in the account called Fénix Angrense ("The Phoenix of Angra").
  • 1564: Another volcanic eruption on Lagoa do Fogo, São Miguel. The eruption began on 13 February and lasted for a few days, causing no damage.
  • 1571: A seismic crisis caused great damage in Angra do Heroísmo during the month of June. The earthquake was centered southeast of Terceira Island, probably at Dom João de Castro Bank. It shook Terceira, and it was felt in São Miguel as well. Someone noted that a ship was sailing in the area at the time of the onset of the earthquakes.
  • 1580: An eruption of the volcano of Queimada, São Jorge. On the night of 28 April, the land trembled thirty times and fifty times more the next day. On 1 May, there were tremors and an explosion on the top of the volcano. Another explosion happened in front of the upper part of Ribeira do Nabo, two kilometres east of the volcano. The lava flows began near Ribeira do Almeida. The eruption lasted four months, with large lava flows and volcanic ashes spread as far as Terceira.
  • 1588: Large floods in São Bento and Porto de Pipas, Terceira on 26 February. The waters flowed through the valley approaching Porto de Pipas, where they caused destruction to ships and boats.
  • 1588: Large floods in Velas, São Jorge. On 8 November, the flooding began near Velas with a torrent that "took many people into the sea and flooded many homes". This event was the origin of a popular poem.
  • 1591: An earthquake was felt in São Miguel and on Terceira. As a consequence, the earthquake ruined many buildings, especially in Vila Franca do Campo and Água de Pau. The population lost their best homes. The king spent 150,000 reals for reconstruction. On Terceira, the land shook four times and seemed to want to "subvert itself"
  • 1593: The worst agricultural year in memory caused a famine in the islands of Terceira and São Jorge, which was associated with the war of 1580-1593.
  • 15991600: Bubonic plague caused seven thousand deaths on Terceira. The year 1599 was known as the "bad year" because of the epidemic crisis. It affected much of the population, and, for two years, it was the worst disaster in Terceira's history. Plague revisited, off and on, for nearly two decades.

17th century[edit]

  • 1606 — Flooding in Velas, São Jorge, in February caused much damage to the town of Velas, many roads were "the way that no one could walk a foot".
  • 1608 — Large flooding in Angra, Terceira - On February 11 at about 9 at night, and created a huge intense mudslide in Angra, situated during the area all night. At dawn, the mudslide intensified causing excavation of a cave named Santa Luzia. The waters flooded Rua Miragaia as well as Rus do Marquês and Rua do Palácio and also flooded Rua Direita. The flood knocked down walls at its port (the famous "Porta do Mar"), the flood-damaged properties and ruined various homes and buildings.
  • 1613 — Year of the sterility of the grass. It killed two cows. That year was a combination of drought and gale force winds in the winter and spring leaving in one dramatic situation. It killed many animals. It would have been the year of La Niña?
  • 1614 — The first "Caída da Praia" ("Falling of Praia") - earthquakes on April 9 in Fontinhas and May 24 in Praia, Terceira - On April 9, an earthquake destroyed almost all of the parish of Fontinhas and severely damaged other parishes. On May 24, an earthquake with a huge magnitude ruined almost all of the parishes of Agualva, Vila Nova, Lajes and Santa Cruz de Praia caused injuries. Francisco Ferreira Drummond described in the Annals of Terceira "Fallen" in the reconstruction with a great detail.
  • 1630 — A Plinian-type Eruption of Furnas, São Miguel and occurred on September 3. It was known as the "Year of the Ashtray", 191 people were killed in the eruption. The eruption was accompanied with a volcanic explosions in sea and the stone located near Lagoa do Fogo and around Ribeira Quente. It also created large mudslides in lands of the south coast of the island of São Miguel.
  • 1630 — Mudslide in Castelo, São Miguel, in 1630 a gigantic mudslide happened where today lies the westernmost point of the "cape" located near Ribeira Quente, São Miguel. The mudslide tore a part of Castelo in the area now known as Ponta da Albufeira. The mudslide was associated with an eruption on Furnas in the same year.
  • 1637 — A hurricane reached Terceira - On August 3, a major storm pounded the island and caused much damage
  • 1638 — underwater eruption near Candelária, São Miguel island, the eruption was a Surtseyan, it began on July 3 located about 2 km off the Ponta da Candelária. For 29 days it produced a ring-formed island. During the eruption, the sulfur affected about 8 leagues in distance and killed many fishes which created "To load eight vessels to India".
  • 1641 — A great wave (probably from seaquake) in Velas, São Jorge, on December 21, it created a wave near Monte dos Fachos causing great destruction to the town.
  • 1647 — Seismic crisis in Terceira and caused the worst agricultural year in all of the islands. It lasted from the end of December up until the beginning of July causing violent tremors causing panic in Angra.
  • 1649 — A storm wrecked four boats in Angra, earthquake in Terceira, a storm caused strong southeast winds to overturn four boats in Angra. A small earthquake shook Terceira. It was the year that celebrated good wine productions.
  • 1652 — Eruption on Pico do Fogo, São Miguel, after one week of violent eruption, which caused great phenomena in Lagoa and parts of Ponta Delgada, On October 19 caused a Strombolian eruption. A basaltic lava destroyed the areas near Calhetas as well as parts of Portões Vermelhos. The eruption lasted for 15 days and caused phenomena.
  • 1656 — An earthquake rumbled the island of São Miguel on October 18, 1656. The same day at two o'clock caused various aftershocks and on the next day, at seven in the afternoon caused a strong aftershock and damaged houses.
  • 1656 — Epidemic of smallpox in Terceira - The epidemic affected almost all children under the age of three and reached the population as high as the age of fifteen.
  • 1668 — A storm reached and devastated Calheta on São Jorge - On November 23, a violent storm caused an "alteration of the sea that flooded the village destroying and knocking down houses", it also obstructed the port.
  • 1672 — A volcanic eruption occurred on the night of April 13 in Faial which was followed by five seismic waves causing a seismic crisis in the whole island. Victims of the volcano emigrated to Maranhão, Brazil.
  • 1678 — Lack of cereals caused disputes in the municipalities in the islands of São Jorge and Pico. A worst agricultural year which made cereals scarce for the islands of São Jorge and Pico and made it necessary to prohibit cereal exports
  • 1682 — Underwater eruption occurred in front of Ferraria, São Miguel, the eruption was 4 leagues from Ponta da Ferraria.
  • 1690 — A huge storm along with an earthquake caused panic on the island of Terceira.
  • 1698 — Seismic crisis in Terceira in October created panic in the population.

18th century[edit]

  • 1713 — Floods in the town of Velas on São Jorge. On December 10, the same year, many intense mudslides in the area between Urzelina and Rosais caused large floods which destroyed 27 houses in the town of Velas. The Ribeira da Almeida overflowed by its beach which allowed the passage by foot between the town and Queimage
  • 1713 — Volcanic eruption and gases at Pico das Camarinhas on São Miguel Island. In various weeks continued and in late-December, created fumes and gases throughout the area. The eruption created volcanic explosions. The seismic crisis destroyed many houses in Ginetes, Mosteiros and Candelária.
  • 1717–1718 — Epidemic in Faial which lasted from November 1717 to February 1718 which caused a bubonic plague. On November, the death toll were mainly in Cedros, the same in Castelo Branco and Flamengos.
  • 1718 — Eruption in Santa Luzia do Pico which started on February 1 and ended on August 15 and repeated on September, the actitivity ended at the beginning of November. The localization was in the eruptive centre.
  • 1720 — Eruption in Soldão, Lajes do Pico on July 10
  • 1720 — Eruption in Banco D. João de Castro
  • 1730 — Earthquake caused destruction to parish of Luz in Graciosa, on June 13, a violent earthquake destroyed the whole parish of Luz in Graciosa.
  • 1744 — A tropical cyclone struck the island of Picl, ruining the parishes of Praina do Galeão, Praia do Norte and São Roque and also in Água de Pau
  • 1755 — A tidal wave (tsunami) reached the Azores - "The Tidal Wave of Lisbon" of November 1, 1755 caused a large tidal wave and ruined a large number of buildings in number of parishes. Almost all of its ports in the Azores suffered great destruction and many boats were lost. The wave reached about 10 palms (about 150 m) and up to 80 palms (about 120 m)
  • 1759–1760 — Earthquake in Faial, which began on December 24, 1759 which was the greatest earthquake on the island, followed with many tremors. Another occurred on January 4.
  • 1761 — Eruption on Pico Gordo, Terceira which started on November 1760 and created violent tremors which continued until April 14. Another eruption happened on April 21, the same year.
  • 1761 — A tropical hurricane affected the central group of the Azores Islands on September 29
  • 1779 — A tropical storm ruined again the central group of the islands on the nights of October 30 and 31.
  • 1779 — Epidemic in Flores
  • 1787 — Seismic crisis in Graciosa, in March, the crisis rumbled the island and caused considerable damage
  • 1800 — Earthquake in the northeastern portion of Terceira rumbled in the afternoon hours of June 24, the earthquake ruined good parts of the buildings of the parishes or villages of northeastern Terceira.

19th century[edit]

  • 1801 — Earthquake in São Sebastião, the sequence of the earthquake in the previous year, new earthquake with larger intensity reached the same parishes. Damage was mainly to São Sebastião, a beach settlement near Cabo da Praia.
  • 1808 — Eruption in Urzelina, São Jorge
  • 1811 — A volcanic eruption occurred at the shore of Ferraria, São Miguel creating the short-lived Sabrina Island named after the British frigate HMS Sabrina, whose captain, Commander James Tillard, first identified the island and claimed it for the United Kingdom. The eruption caused destruction to many homes. The islet itself disappeared in the following years.
  • 1817 — Seismic crisis in the island of Graciosa causing much damage to most buildings and properties.
  • 1841 — A second "Caída da Praia" ("Falling of Praia") earthquakes on June 15 in Praia da Vitória and Fontinhas on Terceira - Houses were destroyed in the parishes of Santa Cruz da Praia, Fontinhas, Lajes, São Brás, Vila Nova, Agualva, Cabo da Praia, Porto Martins and São Sebastião
  • 1848 — An earthquake caused nine deaths in southwestern São Miguel island, the strength caused much damage to Várzea, Feteiras, Candelária and Ginetes
  • 1852 — An earthquake rumble the island of São Miguel causing damage to the area.
  • 1857 — Hunger reached São Jorge, a tropical cyclone reached the Central Group on August 24, 1857 and caused a destruction of about two thousand farmlands and caused famine. The famine ended after 1859.
  • 1867 — Underwater eruption in the cay of Serreta, Terceira on the night of June 1 and June 7 followed by many weeks of intense aftershocks.
  • 1893 — 28 August, an unnamed hurricane (or summer storm) influenced the southern coast of Terceira island causing destruction, including the permanent damage to the old Church of São Mateus da Calheta.[4][5] The resulting storm resulted in the abandon of the temple and, eventually its reconstruction into the interior, along with much of the settlement.

20th century[edit]

  • 1907 — An underwater eruption at the Mónaco Fracture. On 1 April founded a small eruption at a radius of 400 m at the depths of Banco Mónaco SSW of S. Miguel. It spewed out ashes from the submerged cape São Miguel - Faial
  • 1911 — Underwater eruption in the Mónaco Fracture, in March, it caused a minor eruption located about 200 to 300 m in depth SSW in 1907, the eruption lasted several hours.
  • 1926 — A major earthquake rumbled the city of Horta, in early April, the island saw series of intensive earthquakes. On April 5 damage was reported in Flamengos, Ribeirinha and Conceição. On August 31 at 8:42 (Oscar Time) causing 8 deaths ruining the cities of Horta again and parishes of Conceição, Praia do Almoxarife (ruining 220 homes), Flamengos, Feteira and Castelo Branco and most of Lomba do Pilar e o Salão. 4,138 homes and buildings were damaged or destroyed
  • 1957–1958 — Eruption at Capelinhos, Faial between September 16 and 27, 1957 and ending October 25, 1958, ruined buildings and extended the land by an underwater eruption 1 km from Ponta dos Capelinhos. Many people emigrated to North America.
  • 1963 — An earthquake and an underwater eruption affected Santa Luzia in Pico from December 12 to 15. It made seismographs from Faial registered a volcanic tremor at Cachorro, Santa Luzia on the north coast of the island of Pico. The tremor lasted from December 13 to 14. On December 15, with great weather and a good visibility, residents of Faial and Pico saw "balls of clouds of vapor" leaving from the front of Cachorro. None of these materials were collected and the phenomenon was not did not shook heavily and did not cause any damage.
  • 1964 — An earthquake shook the island of São Jorge in the area of Rosais and Velas, damaging 900 homes and 400 buildings, as well as causing panic on the island, leading to the evacuation of large numbers of Jorgenses to the island of Terceira and other islands. The crisis was caused by an underwater deep eruption off the coast of Rosais.
  • 1973 — Earthquake shook the islands of Pico and Faial, in the portion of October 11, residents felt numerous aftershocks on Pico, Faial and São Jorge with particular prominence over the parish of São Mateus and the locality of Terra do Pão, and Pico island. On November 23 at 12:36 p.m. OST (2:36 p.m. GMT), measured a violent earthquake (at 7/8 on the Wood-Neumann scale) with the epicenter near Santo Antonio on Pico. The earthquake caused major damage, with many houses damaged, fallen walls and displaced streets and roads, the parishes of Bandeiras Santa Luzia, Santo Antóónio and São Roque in the north coast of Pico and São Mateus in the south coast and damaged the parishes of Conceição, Matriz and Flamengos in the island of Faial
  • 1980 — The 1980 Azores Islands earthquake on January 1 devastated Terceira São Jorge and Graciosa islands happened at 4:42 p.m. OST (6:42 p.m. GMT) measuring 7 on the Richter Scale. The epicenter was located nearly 35 km SSW of Angra do Heroísmo. It caused damage to buildings in the city of Angra do Heroísmo. town of São Sebastião and the parishes of W and NW Terceira and including Topo and Santo Antão, in São Jorge devastated Carapacho and Luz in Graciosa. The earthquake was one of the greatest recorded earthquakes in the Azores Islands. 71 people lost their lives, 400 were injured, nearly 15,500 homes were destroyed and 15,000 (about 5% of the Azorians) were homeless.
  • 1981 — An underwater eruption in Fractura Mónaco, in the beginning of July, a small underwater eruption about 300 m in depth was located in Banco Mónaco (SSW of São Miguel), it spewed gases and basaltic materials.
  • 1997 — An underwater eruption near Banco D. João de Castro -In the spring of 1997, the intense microseismic activity rumbled throughout that area and caused numerous earthquakes and aftershocks (I to III on the Mercali scale felt in Terceira and São Miguel islands lifted and created an underwater eruption.
  • 1997 — Mudslide in Ribeira Quente, São Miguel, on October 31, 1997 after one week of intense slides, it created for early two hours of heavy precipitation on October 31 and created a mudslide over the hillsides of Outeiro das Freiras and left 36 families totaling 114 persons homeless.
  • 1998 — The 1998 Azores earthquake on July 9 shook Faial, Pico and São Jorge at 5:19 a.m. ODT (6:19 a.m. GMT) measured 5.6 on the Richter scale with and epicenter NNE of the island of Faial caused damage to the parishes of Riberinha, Pedro Miguel, Salão and Cedros and more damage in Castelo Branco (mainly Lombega), Flamengos and Praia do Almoxarife on Faial, it also caused damage in parts of Pico Island and the far western part of the São Jorge Island. 8 persons lost their lives in the earthquake, 1,700 persons were homeless.
  • 1999–2000 — An underwater eruption shook Serreta on Terceira registering aftershocks in the area on November 25, 1998. Fishermen founded another eruption at the end of December.

21st century[edit]

  • Spring 2005 — Heavy rainfall deluged the Azores causing mudslides and flooding throughout the islands. People were stranded in their houses and roads were closed; buildings, property, and some roads were damaged.
  • 15 December 2009 — Heavy rainfall deluged the Azores causing flooding throughout the islands; in the parish of Agualva, in the municipality of Praia da Vitória, flooding resulted in landslides, destruction of homes and automobiles, where the waters escaped the ravines. Even as one person died, dozens of inhabitants were affected by the events.
  • 3 December 2010 — The bad weather in the Azores during this period resulted in a "great sliding of land" on the island of Flores, which resulted in the obstruction of the road access to Fajãnzinha, impeding vehicles in this locality.[6] Reports from the Serviço Regional de Protecção Civil (Regional Service for Civil Protection) indicated that there was no material damage or harm to people in the area (although some seniors were removed from the area for their safety).[6] Meanwhile, trees fell on the island of São Miguel, and two were injured as their car left the road during the storm. On Santa Maria, the bad weather resulted in the flooding of homes.[6]
  • 14 March 2013 — Flooding in the civil parish of Porto Judeu occurred, when the communities principal ravine overflowed its banks, invading the centre of the parish, 20 inhabitants were affected and 30 became homeless.[7] A similar landslide caused by torrential rainfall in Faial da Terra on the island of São Miguel, caused three deaths and damage to various homes.[7][8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Carlos Melo Bento (2008), p.33
  2. ^ d'Oliveira, Manuel da Sousa (1990), Escavações Arqueológicas em Vila Franca do Campo 1967-1982 (in Portuguese) 
  3. ^ a b Carlos Melo Bento (2008), p.64
  4. ^ Noé, Paula (2013), SIPA, ed., Igreja Velha de São Mateus da Calheta (IPA.00034955) (in Portuguese), Lisbon, Portugal: SIPA – Sistema de Informação para o Património Arquitectónico, retrieved 25 December 2013 
  5. ^ Rocha, Liduino (2008), Subsídios para a História de São Mateus da Calheta, Angra do Heroísmo (Azores), Portugal: BLU–Edições/Junta de Freguesia de São Mateus da Calheta, p. 430, ISBN 978-972-8864-26-2 
  6. ^ a b c "Grande deslizamento de terra" na ilha das Flores" (in Portuguese). 3 December 2010. Retrieved 2 January 2014. 
  7. ^ a b "Deslizamento de terras faz três mortos nos Açores: na Freguesia de Faial da Terra (São Miguel)" (in Portuguese). Ponta Delgada (Azores), Portugal: Lusa/Record. 14 March 2013. Retrieved 2 January 2014. 
  8. ^ "Açores: Três pessoas morreram após deslizamento de terras". Ponta Delgda (Azores), Portugal: diariodigital. 14 March 2013. Retrieved 2 January 2014.