Guatemala Guatemala 1976 (CAR)

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Event ID
197602040901
Event name
Guatemala
Country
Guatemala
Epicentral coordinates (long/lat)
POINT(-89.14 15.3)
WKT GIS format
GEMECD contributing partner
CAR
Event narrative

On Wednesday 4th February 1976, at 03:01 local time, an earthquake of moment magnitude 7.6 and focal depth of 12 km occurred in Guatemala. This was the country’s most destructive earthquake since 1917.

The earthquake was generated by left-lateral slippage of the Motagua fault and was felt over an area of at least 100,000 km2.

The earthquake was associated with ground ruptures that run for a distance of 240 km, the longest in the Americas for 70 years. Maximum horizontal slippage reached 3.25 metres in an area around 25 km of the country’s capital, Guatemala city.

It also caused extensive landslides along the country’s main highway connecting the capital with the coasts of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans as well as in the mountainous areas.

A large landslide buried two small villages near Tecpan. The maximum Modified Mercalli intensity was IX in the Mixco area, in some sections of Guatemala city and in Gualán.

The isoseismal of intensity VI covered an area of 33,000 km2 (30% of the country). The highest intensities were observed near the western end of the Motagua fault. In an area of about 1700 km2 the damage ratio to the local buildings was 100%.

Date of occurrence (UTC)
1976-02-04
date
Time of occurrence (UTC)
09:01:00
time
Date of occurrence (local)
1976-02-04
date
Time of occurrence (local)
03:01:00
time
Day of the week (local)
Wednesday
Magnitude
7.6
Magnitude units
Moment (Mw)
Focal depth
12.3
km
Seismological data: source
USGS
Seismological data: comment

ShakeMap Atlas

Overall impact

This tremendous earthquake occurred in the middle of the night and claimed 22,868 lives, injured an additional 77,190 people of which approximately 11,000 were seriously injured and (or) hospitalized.

In the USGS EXPO-CAT database it is estimated that during this earthquake 1,907,000 people were exposed to intensity VII or higher, of which around 22.5% were in rural areas. In the USGS reconnaissance report the affected population is estimated at 2,373,000.

Almost all of the casualties were due to the collapse of residential buildings, mostly of adobe construction, as the event took place in the middle of the night.

In the six worst affected municipalities the death toll ranged from 10 to 21.5% of the population, while in Guatemala city the death rate was 0.17% of the population, with the rural department of Chimaltenango experiencing a casualty rate (dead and injured) of 25% and a homelessness rate of 97%.

In Guatemala city modern earthquake resistant buildings and hospitals were damaged but did not collapse. Damage to adobe buildings was spatially varied, with building being virtually undamaged in locations 10 km from the fault rupture, but devastated further away in the highlands.

In total around 222,000 housing units were destroyed or collapsed, leaving an estimated 1.044 million people homeless (19% of the country’s population). Other reports bring these figures at 258,000 housing units and 1.2 million homeless.

Losses from this tremendous earthquake were at the time estimated to be around 1.1 billion US$ or almost 30% of Guatemala’s GDP in 1976.

Overview data
Loss: Human Casualty
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People injured
77190
number
People injured: source
Espinosa, F. (1976). The Guatemalan Earthquake of February 4, 1976, A preliminary Report. U.S.G.S. Professional Paper, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 130p.
People injured: comment

as of March 3, 1976


People seriously injured
11000
number
People seriously injured: status
Approximate

People killed
22868
number
People killed: source
Espinosa, F. (1976). The Guatemalan Earthquake of February 4, 1976, A preliminary Report. U.S.G.S. Professional Paper, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 130p.
People killed: comment

as of March 3, 1976


People killed due to slope failures: comment

A large landslide covered two small villages near Tecpan.

Loss: Building damage
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Number of dwellings destroyed by shaking
254750
number
Number of dwellings destroyed by shaking: source
Espinosa, F. (1976). The Guatemalan Earthquake of February 4, 1976, A preliminary Report. U.S.G.S. Professional Paper, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 130p.
Number of dwellings destroyed by shaking: comment

as of February 15, 1976


Loss: Socioeconomic
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People homeless
1044441
number
People homeless: source
Olso, R.A. & Olson, R.S. (1977). The Quatemala earthquake of 4 February 1976: social science observations and research suggestions. Mass Emergencies 2, 69-81.
People homeless: comment

In USGS report 1.7 million people were registered as homeless as of February 15, 1976; other reports say 1.2 million homeless.


Direct economic loss
1045
million US$
Direct economic loss: source
Munich Re
Direct economic loss: comment

Excl. insured losses (GFDRR gives a lower estimate of 729.6 million US$).


Indirect economic loss
25.8
million US$
Indirect economic loss: source
GFDRR

Insured loss
55
million US$
Insured loss: source
Munich Re

Demographics
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Total number of buildings: status
N/A