1802 Vrancea earthquake
|Date||Tuesday, 26 October 1802|
|Origin time||12:55 (local time)|
|Depth||150 km (93 mi)|
|Total damage||Hundreds of buildings destroyed|
|Casualties||4 dead, hundreds injured|
The 1802 Vrancea earthquake occurred Tuesday, 26 October [O.S. 14 October] 1802, during St. Paraskeva's celebrated Day. Its magnitude is estimated at 7.9 on the moment magnitude scale making it the strongest earthquake ever recorded in Romania and one of the strongest earthquakes in European history. It was felt from Saint Petersburg to Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, and from Belgrade to Moscow. Its felt area (more that 2 million square kilometers) places it among the largest earthquakes known on the interior of the Eurasian continent. According to local witnesses, "in many localities in Burzenland (Romanian: Țara Bârsei) were formed huge holes in the ground, cracks, wide crevices of several feet (1 foot = 33 cm) and many fathoms deep, partially filled with water".
In Bucharest, many church steeples fell, and Turnul Colței broke in half, killing an itinerant merchant. The earthquake was felt in Bucharest with an estimated intensity of VIII–IX on Mercalli scale. Likewise, Cotroceni Monastery completely collapsed. Numerous fires broke out, caused mainly by overthrowing stoves. In Focșani, wall of St. John Monastery fell. Also, several households and church steeples collapsed following the first oscillations of the soil.
In Moscow, some walls were cracked, suspended objects swung. In many other cities in Russia and Ukraine, soil oscillated for several minutes. Significant damage was caused in other areas of Ukraine, in Lviv and even Kiev. The earthquake caused fear in Warsaw (Poland), and in Bulgaria, the cities of Ruse, Varna and Vidin were almost completely destroyed.
The Great Earthquake (Romanian: Cutremurul cel Mare), as the Bucharest inhabitants of 19th century called this sinister event, coincided with the ascent to the throne of Prince Constantin Ipsilanti, surprised by the earthquake in the commune of Radovanu (Călărași County). He prayed for the salvation of his submissives. An engraving print shows that roofs and chimneys of houses flied, walls fell, and people tried to run scared and couldn't keep up. The Chronicle of the craftsman Ioan Dobrescu (1802–30) mentions that "the earth here and there opened a whole as if a man with a horse could enter in it (...) and through the cracks of the earth appeared water with black clay which smelt badly like brimstone". Such a description of the disaster caused by this earthquake in Bucharest appears in the record made in the Cyrillic alphabet on the book Pentecostarion: "ground cracked and appeared water with sand".
This seismic event was followed by a sequence of aftershocks among which the largest had a magnitude of 5.5, and it occurred about 14 hours after the mainshock.
Damage and casualties
According to local chronicles, in the village of Bod (Brașov County), more than 50 houses and several churches were damaged or completely destroyed. In the village of Feldioara, a column of water rose from a crack caused by the earthquake and continued to throw water in the air to a height of several meters. At Brașov, many chimneys felt down and houses and churches were damaged. In neighbouring Sibiu, people could not stand up.
In Constantinople and neighboring provinces, the earthquake was felt very intense. For a while, it was thought that the entire capital of the Ottoman Empire had been completely destroyed. In a letter from Petrovaradin are mentioned significant damages to houses and mosques in the Galata neighbourhood. The mainshock and subsequent replicas lasted up to 30 minutes.
At 1:30 p.m., violent tremors were felt in Kiev. Aftershocks, in total 6, lasted 3 minutes and were so strong that all masonry buildings were strongly shaken and city bells began to ring themselves. As in 1730, the earthquake caused damage to churches and houses in Kiev. In Chernivtsi some houses were damaged. In Lviv, Armenian church was cracked and the bells ring alone. The tremor was also felt in Saint Petersburg and Moscow, in neighboring Russia. In a letter of academician Anatolie Drumea from Chișinău is mentioned that a nanny walked a little boy in a stroller, in the courtyard of Lomonosov University Library, when at 1:53 p.m. "the statues began to fall", and the stone benches were overturned. The boy was the future Russian poet Alexander Pushkin.
Between 12:00 and 13:00 in the afternoon, Bucharest was hit by the mainshock. The earthquake was felt for about 10 minutes and was so violent that all chimneys in the city collapsed, as chronicler Dionysius the Ecclesiarch mentioned in his "Hronograf". A few houses and several churches were shattered. Numerous historical monuments were destroyed, including the Cotroceni Monastery and the 54 meters high Colțea Tower. The soil was split in several places; greenish water gushed from the earth that emanated a smell like sulfur in the city. At 5 o'clock occurred an aftershock, but the tremor was less intense and did not cause any damage. A testimony of the Greek chronicler Dionysius Fotino reveals that Prince Constantin Ipsilanti moved with his family to the Văcărești Monastery as the Princely Palace was severely damaged. Despite a large number of buildings collapsing during the first earthquake, no other deaths were reported besides those of a Jewish woman, her baby and 2 other people. An explanation for the low death toll might be the fact that houses were built at distance from one another and were surrounded by large yards and gardens, so the buildings' vibrations did not propagate. Also, the building materials – mostly shingle and timber – were light ones.
| Deva, Sebeș, Sighișoara
Restoration of Bucharest
Gravely damaged by the earthquake, Constantin Ipsilanti ordered its immediate restoration from the ground. And because the first who tried to profit from the disaster were masons and craftsmen, Ipsilanti had disposed maximum wages that they could work for. And Bucharest was rebuilt in a few years, although some buildings and structures have not ever got their shape as before the earthquake. During the rebuilding, some buildings were reinforced so well that they would resist future earthquakes. And some neighborhoods became, after reconstruction, even more civilized than before.
In the following years there were several more large earthquakes, but that scared the Bucharest inhabitants more than caused damage. Among them was one that shook the city on June 15, 1803, affecting Bucharesters' water system and thus rendering many pumps unusable. Three other major earthquakes occurred in 1804 and 1812.
- 1986 Vrancea earthquake
- 1977 Vrancea earthquake
- 1940 Vrancea earthquake
- List of earthquakes in Vrancea County
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