Earthquakes in Coquimbo and San Salvador


Headline of an article about the damage of the 1906 Valparaiso earthquake. The image is located on the third page of Vol. 3, issue No. 105, The Star of Chile, Saturday August 1906.

One example of a destructive earthquake in Chile was a severe earthquake in Coquimbo, which tore down many houses, destroyed people’s properties, and brought chaos to the city. The earthquake, though it happened in a short time, was sufficient to tear down the whole city. The first shock occurred at 6 a.m. and lasted  only 30 seconds, then came the  second one at a quarter past 11 am, and the final one occured at 12 am with three smaller shocks early the next morning at 8 am. The event damaged Chileans’ property and safety, but many people refused to move up to the cemetery on higher land, because they had dealt with natural forces so many times in their lives before that they painfully accepted it.

In 1873, an even bigger earthquake swept through San Salvador, the Chile capital, causing great damage and loss of life. The shocks were prolonged and violent, ruining many of the city’s resources. Communication and transportation were shut down. Fire broke out in the city, burning houses and trees to ash. On the 20th March 1873, the Star of Chile reporter visited San Salvador. They witnessed the capital roads ruined, many houses down, and near San Salvador, the city of Santa Tecla severely shaken: the houses and buildings were cracked and the streets filled with people carrying their possessions, fleeing San Salvador. Not only buildings but aqueducts were also broken down, spanning and blocking the road. In the suburbs of the city, churches and houses were ruined, some leaning over, as described by the reporter, like a “Pisa tower.”  The death toll was 50, with 500 additional people injured. The catastrophe happened in the night; thus many narrowly escaped. Horses, mules, and livestock were killed under falling walls; animals raised for sale were now worthless. People desperately needed support and escape from their precarious  situation.

 In order to resolve conflicts and protect Chileans, the government enforced many new policies, such as allowing people to shoot invaders who came into their private property, preventing robbery and crime. Also, because the city had been destroyed six or seven times in the past, the president decided to invest in rebuilding the capital’s facilities and supporting its economy. 


"The Valparaiso Disaster," Star of Chile, vol. 3, no. 105 (Valparaiso, Chile), August 25, 1906.

Earthquakes in Coquimbo and San Salvador