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Significant Earthquakes in Puerto Rico

Chronology of significant earthquakes that have affected the island.

Year Date Damages
 1615  September 8th Earthquake in the Dominican Republic that caused damages in Puerto Rico
1670 August 15th Damages in San Germán and San Juan
1717 Church San Felipe in Arecibo and the parochial house in San Germán were destroyed
1740 August 30th The Church of Guadalupe in Villa de Ponce was destroyed (A). Intensity VII, there is only information from Ponce that the earthquake was felt, absence of information of San Germán and the information of Yauco and Lajas suggest a superficial earthquake near to Ponce (G)
1787 May 2nd A strong earthquake was felt in the whole island; damages were reported in all places, except in the South. In the islet of San Juan there were considerable damages and several structures collapsed (DH, according to information of the Town hall of San Juan, 1787). The walls of the Guadalupe Church in Ponce were cracked (G).
1844 April 16th The epicenter was located to the north of the island and felt in Puerto Rico (VII-VIII, (RF)) and Saint Thomas. Several buildings collapsed and cracked. A tower of the Church of Isabela was cracked. It was felt for about 30 seconds (RT). In San Juan almost all the stone houses were cracked (Barbadian Newspaper, May 25 of 1844). Intensity of VII in San Juan (SL).
1846 November 28th 5:00pm: Felt in all the island, more force and damages in the northwest with maximum intensity of VII (RF). Origin probably in the Passage of Mona (RT)
1851 February 22nd The San Juan mayoral building's walls had cracks.
1855 December 14th Originated south of the island. Salinas had VI intensity and Aguas Buenas had V. It is believed to be the strongest felt in Salinas. It happened at 8:15am
1860 October 23rd Earthquake caused damages in Mayagüez. Intensity VI-VII.
1865 August 30th Epicenter at center region of the island. The churches of Manatí and Ponce had cracks. Intensity VI and 50-100 km depth. It is believed to have occurred at night.
1867 November 18th The epicenter of this earthquake was located between Saint Thomas and Saint Croix in the Virgin Islands, M=7.3 (PS). It produced great damages in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico by the acceleration of the ground and tsunami. Reid and Taber assigned an intensity equivalent from VIII to IX to this earthquake. This tremor was felt strong in all Puerto Rico, but the most severe effects were in the Eastern part. A strong tsunami was observed for this earthquake, especially in the Virgin Islands, its height was considered in about twenty feet. Tsunami was observed throughout the coasts of the east and the south of Puerto Rico. Observations of peak altitudes for the waves in Puerto Rico went of three on five feet, in nearness of Arroyo, the south eastern coast. Although to this earthquake a higher intensity equivalent to VIII to IX was assigned by Reid and Taber. Robson proposed that this earthquake had an intensity of VIII. It had more than 500 aftershocks during a period of six to seven months (PRWRA). In Ponce, 70 of the 80 chimneys of the sugar refinery fell down (intensity MM = VI; SL).
1874 August 26th Strong earthquake, intensity V-VI at around 6:15am. Felt mostly in the San Juan area.
1875 September 8-9 Damages in Arecibo and Ponce. It was at night with a 50-100km depth.
1890 August 15th Felt in Ponce where the municipal jail suffered damages. It is believed to have lasted between 8 to 10 seconds.
1906 September 27 Epicenter was 50km north of the island. Had a maximum intensity of VI in San Juan. Mayor damage in the northern coast. It was at 10:41 am.
1906 October 20th Felt in the entire island with a IV-VI intensity. Reported in San Juan. It was at around 4:10 pm.
1908 August 4th Strong earthquake felt in Ponce, Yauco, Arecibo and San Germán. Intensity VI.
1908 August 13th It happened at 4:07 am, felt in Ponce. The post office suffered damages.
1909 February 17th Earthquake felt in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Intensity VI in Culebra. It was at around 2:50 am.
1918 October 11th he epicenter was located about 35 km to the Northwest of Aguadilla, PR in the Mona’s Canyon. Magnitude of 7.3 (PS). Reid and Taber assigned a maximum intensity of IX (equivalent to VIII - IX in MM) in the western part of the island and of V - VI in Guayama. This earthquake generated tsunami that reached 20 feet in Punta Agujereada (8 people reported themselves like drowned), 12 feet in Aguadilla (32 people died drowned), 5 feet in Mayagüez (116 people died because of the earthquake, including the 40 victims of the tsunami). The losses by damages to the property were considered in more than $4,000,000 (RT). By several months they were continued feeling aftershocks of this earthquake, strongest being those of the 24 of October and 12 of November.
1920 February 10th Felt throughout the island. Maximum intensity was VI and Magnitude 6.5
1922 December 18th Felt throughout the island. Maximum Intensity was VI and Magnitud 6.3
1939 June 12th Felt throughout the island. maximum intensity was VI
1943 July 29th Felt in the northwestern region. Magnitude was 7.5
1946 August 4th This earthquake of magnitude 7.8 (PS) happened outside the northeastern coast of the Dominican Republic. Ample damages and tsunami were reported in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. This earthquake was felt with an intensity of up to VI in the Mona Island and the western coast of Puerto Rico. In the rest of the island an intensity of V was reported. A tsunami of 2 feet was observed in the western and north coast of the island (PRWRA). Smaller damages in all Puerto Rico were reported (DH).
1946 August 8th Strong earthquake with tsunami. It was felt in Mayagüez and Aguadilla. Magnitude 7.4. Ocurred at 9:28am
1979 March 23rd 3:33pm: Strong earthquake felt in all the Caribbean area; in Puerto Rico it was felt with an intensity of VI. It was reported in Haiti, Colombia, Venezuela and Dominican Republic (DH). Epicenter located in the south of the Dominican Republic, 17.89N, 68.97W, and 73 km of depth, M=6.1 (USGS).
1981 2August 24th Magnitude 5.7 earthquake with an epicenter in the Mona Passage. Light damage ocurred in Guayanilla. Time of earthquake was 5:50am
1987 May 30th Epicenter near Boqueron. Felt in the southwest of the island with a 4.6 magnitude and a VI intensity. Light damage ocurred. Hour: 1:55 pm


  • A - Asencio, E., 1980. Western Puerto Rico Seismicity, USGS OFR 80-192, 135pp.
  • DH - Díaz Hernández, L.E., 1985. Temblores y Terremotos de Puerto Rico, Ponce, PR.
  • G - Geomatrix, 1988. Draft Report, Geological - Seismological Evaluation to Assess Potential Earthquake Ground Motions for the Portugués Dam, Puerto Rico, San Francisco.
  • MJ - McCann, W. y R. Jiménez, 1989. Informe Técnico Final de Investigación de la vlinerabilidad sísmica de Puerto Rico: Aspectos de Sismología e Ingeniería, @ USGS, No. 14-08-000-G1511.
  • PS - Pacheco, J. y L.R. Sykes, 1992. Seismic moment catalog of large shallow earthquakes, 1900 to 1989, BSSA, Vol. 82, No. 3, pp. 1306-1349.
  • PRWRA - Puerto Rico Water Resources Authority, 1970. Preliminary Facility Description and Safety Report, Aguirre Nuclear Power Plant, Unit. No. 1, App. A, Part III, Seismicity Investigation, Weston Geophysical Research
  • RT - Reid, H.F. y L. Taber, 1919. The Porto Rico Earthquake of 1918 with descriptions of earlier earthquakes report of the Earthquake Investigation Commission, Document No. 269, U.S. House of Representatives, 66th Congress, 1st Session.
  • SL - Shepherd, J.B. y L.L. Lynch, 1992. An earthquake catalogue for the Caribbean Part I, the pre-instrumental period 1502-1900. Report presented in the Executive Committee Meeting of the Latin American and Caribbean Seismic Vulnerability Program. 59pp.
  • USGS - United States Geological Survey. Preliminary Determination of Epicenters.