Guatemala Earthquake

The most destructive earthquake since 1917 struck Guatemala on February 4. The magnitude 7.5 quake was centered about 160 km northeast of Guatemala City.

The death toll has reached more than 23,000, and thousands have been injured. Damage was extensive. Most adobe type structures in the outlying areas of Guatemala City were completely destroyed, leaving thousands homeless.

Transportation was impeded by the many landslides occurring in the area. Food and water supplies were severely reduced. Some of the areas were without electricity and communication for days. The main shock has been followed by thousands of aftershocks, some of the larger ones causing additional loss of life and damage.

The 1976 Guatemala earthquake struck on February 4, 1976 at 03:01:43 local time (09:01:43 UTC-6). It was a 7.5 Mw earthquake, centered in the Motagua Fault, about 160 km northeast of Guatemala City, Guatemala. The quake's hypocenter was located at a depth of 5 km near the town of Los Amates in the department of Izabal.

Cities throughout the country suffered damage, and most adobe type houses in the outlying areas of Guatemala City were completely destroyed. The earthquake struck during the early morning (at 3.01 am, local time) when most people were asleep. This has contributed to the high death toll of 23,000. Approximately 76,000 were injured, and many thousands left homeless. Some of areas went without electricity and communication for days.

The main shock was followed by thousands of aftershocks, some of the larger ones causing additional loss of life and damage.

The locations of surface ruptures and the main shock epicenter indicate that the disastrous Guatemala earthquake of 4 February 1976 was tectonic in origin and generated mainly by slip on the Motagua fault, which has an arcuate roughly east-west trend across central Guatemala. Fault breakage was observed for 230 km. Displacement is predominantly horizontal and sinistral with a maximum measured offset of 340 cm and an average of about 100 cm. Secondary fault breaks trending roughly north-northeast to south-southwest have been found in a zone about 20 km long and 8 km wide extending from the western suburbs of Guatemala City to near Mixco, and similar faults with more subtle surface expression probably occur elsewhere in the Guatemalan Highlands.