Chillán Earthquake of 1939

The 1939 Chillán earthquake was a major earthquake in south-central Chile.

It is currently the single earthquake that has caused the most deaths in Chile. The earthquake occurred on 24 January 1939 and had an intensity of 8.3 in the Richter scale. The death toll was around 30,000,compared to the 6,000 of the Great Chilean Earthquake of 1960.

An 8.3-magnitude earthquake centered in south central Chile leaves 50,000 people dead and 60,000 injured on this day in 1939. The disaster came just 33 years after another terrible quake in Chile killed tens of thousands.

Earthquakes in Chile are relatively common as virtually the entire country lies along an underground fault. Since consistent records have been kept, the country averages a significant tremor every three years. Typically, there is a pattern of foreshocks over several weeks that lead to a large earthquake. In January 1939, that pattern did not hold.

A 1939 quake in Chile killed 28,000 people and in 1960, a magnitude-9.5 quake — the strongest recorded in the 20th century — killed 5,700 people. On June 13, 2005, a magnitude-7.8 quake near Tarapaca in northern Chile killed 11 people and left thousands homeless.

On January 24, 1939, an 8.3 magnitude earthquake, in south central Chile, left 50,000 people dead and 60,000 injured. Most of the people that died was a result of falling buildings.

Chile has a long history of earthquakes because there is a deep fault line called the peru-chilie trench. This trench is actually a tectonic plate boundary and a subduction zone. The oceanic plate is subducting underneath Chile. Subduction earthquakes are the largest and most damaging. The largest earthquake ever recorded was in Valdivia, Chile on May 21st 1960.