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1812 Caracas earthquake: Map

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The 1812 Caracas earthquake took place in Venezuelamarker on March 26, 1812 (on Maundy Thursday) at 4:37 p.m. It measured 7.7 on the Richter magnitude scale. It caused extensive damage in Caracasmarker, La Guairamarker, Barquisimetomarker, San Felipemarker, and Méridamarker. An estimated 15,000-20,000 people perished as a result, in addition to incalculable material damage.

The seismic movement was so drastic 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 valley of Caracas, 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.

Response

The destruction in Caracas was so widespread that the Gazeta de Caracas suggested founding a new capital city in "…the beautiful [...] Catiamarker where pure air may be breathed…".

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 citites: Babylon, Jerusalem and the Tower of Babel"..

The first international assistance received by Venezuela in response to the earthquake came from the United Statesmarker, "...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."

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