1812 Caracas earthquake
|Local date||March 26, 1812|
|Depth||33 km (21 mi)|
|Max. intensity||X (Extreme) |
The 1812 Caracas earthquake took place in Venezuela on March 26 (on Maundy Thursday) at 4:37 p.m. It measured 7.7 on the Richter magnitude scale. It caused extensive damage in Caracas, La Guaira, Barquisimeto, San Felipe, and Mérida. An estimated 15,000–20,000 people perished as a result, in addition to incalculable material damage.
The seismic movement was so significant that in a zone named Valecillo, a new lake was formed and the river Yurubí was dammed up. Numerous rivulets changed their course in the Caracas valley, which was flooded with dirty water.
Based on contemporary descriptions, the earthquake is believed to have consisted of two seismic shocks occurring within the span of 30 minutes. The first destroyed Caracas and the second Mérida, where it was raining when the shock occurred.
The destruction in Caracas was so widespread that the Gazeta de Caracas suggested founding a new capital city in "the beautiful [...] Catia where pure air may be breathed".[This quote needs a citation]
Since the earthquake occurred on Maundy Thursday while the Venezuelan War of Independence was raging, it was explained by royalist authorities as divine punishment for the rebellion against the Spanish Crown. The archbishop of Caracas, Narciso Coll y Prat, referred to the event as "the terrifying but well-deserved earthquake" which "confirms in our days the prophecies revealed by God to men about the ancient impious and proud cities: Babylon, Jerusalem and the Tower of Babel". This prompted the widely quoted answer of Simon Bolivar: "If Nature is against us, we shall fight Nature and make it obey".
The first international assistance received by Venezuela in response to the earthquake came from the United States, "...when the congress convened in Washington decreed unanimously the sending of five ships loaded with flour, to the coasts of Venezuela to be distributed among the most indigent of its inhabitants." This $50,000 was the first-ever instance of U.S. foreign aid.
- National Centers for Environmental Information. "Significant earthquake". The Significant Earthquake Database. Retrieved October 14, 2018.
- "Nacimiento de una nación; Terremoto de 1812". Archived from the original on August 20, 2006.
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- Von Humboldt, Alexander. "14". Le voyage aux régions equinoxiales du Nouveau Continent, fait en 1799–1804.
- Fitz, Caitlin. Our Sister Republics: The United States in an Age of American Revolutions.