A powerful earthquake measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale was felt in Bogota. The event occurred at 12:05 pm (local time), with its epicenter located in the municipality of El Calvario (Meta). As reported by the Colombian Geological Service, it had a shallow depth of less than 30 km.
Fatality in Bogota
A fatality has been announced. The incident occurred in the Madelena neighborhood, south of the capital. A woman, driven by panic, attempted to exit her residence through a window. While descending the facade from the seventh floor, she lost her balance and fell, impacting the ground. The severe impact led to her tragic demise.
Significant Alarm and Minor Effects
This earthquake is among the strongest recently felt in the capital. Due to its intensity and the population density, citizens experienced considerable alarm. Shortly after noon, sirens sounded the alert and urged preventive evacuation of buildings. Thousands of citizens rushed out to the streets, as practiced in various drills.
“Fortunately, we did not have major consequences. None of the public services (…) suffered significant damages. We have only had minor impacts,” reported the mayor of the capital, Claudia López. The mayor expressed gratitude to the citizens for their calm response and adherence to emergency instructions. “Thank you all for following the instructions we provided (…). At this moment, please remain calm as there could be an aftershock. Another tremor might occur; it is unpredictable.”
Lopez also advised citizens to inspect their homes for any damage, both to facades and roofs. The mayor also provided instructions on what to do if any defects were detected in private residences.
While the shock was indeed considerable, strong aftershocks prevented a swift return to calm. However, according to authorities, no major damage has been reported, either to people or to infrastructure. Up to this point, authorities have received 88 reports from citizens, all indicating minor impacts. These include small interior ceiling collapses, such as in the Colombian Congress, and road closures on the El Llano route due to road debris. The earthquake was also felt in departmental capitals like Bucaramanga, Tunja, Villavicencio, and Ibague.
Colombia: A Country with High Seismic Activity
According to the Colombian Geological Service, the country has experienced 300,000 earthquakes of various intensities over the last 30 years. The nature of these movements is explained by the Colombian subsoil’s composition. Three tectonic plates intersect the national territory: the Nazca Plate, the South American Plate, and the Caribbean Plate. In fact, the formation of the Andes mountain range was a result of seismic activity in the region.
Among the various significant earthquakes the country has endured, history recalls the Cúcuta earthquake (1875), with an estimated magnitude between 7.5 and 8.5 on the Richter scale. About 1000 people perished due to that earthquake, not only in Cúcuta but also in various areas of the country, including victims on the other side of the border.
In more recent history, earthquakes such as the Popayan earthquake (1983) remain vivid in the collective memory. It registered only 5.5 on the scale but resulted in around 280 deaths. The earthquake in Paez, Cauca (1994), is also remembered. It reached 6.4 on the Richter scale and caused 800 casualties. Towards the end of the century, the Armenia earthquake (1999) shook the entire Coffee Axis region. With only 5.4 on the Richter scale, it claimed 1185 lives. This earthquake also led to thousands being displaced due to the devastating effects that left many people homeless.
Earthquake Response Protocol
In the event of detecting an earthquake, follow these guidelines:
- Take cover near a column, under a desk, or in designated safe areas, always away from windows and objects that could fall.
- Never use elevators.
- Avoid standing under door frames.
- If in a wheelchair, move next to a column or a safe spot. Brake the wheelchair and protect your head with your arms.
- If lying down and unable to reach a safe location, stay in bed or on one side. Shield your head with your arms or a pillow.
- If outside, assess your surroundings and find a safe place. Stay away from poles and cables. Steer clear of facades, as parts like bricks or glass may fall. Proceed cautiously to the center of the street.
- If driving on an urban road, do not stop. Reduce speed and locate bays or other safe spots to pull over.
- If driving on a highway, lower your speed. Find a safe location to park. In Colombia, the highway police can be reached at #767.
- If driving on a bridge, reduce speed and avoid stopping until you have exited the bridge. Bridges are not safe during earthquakes.
- If in a public place such as a theater or cinema, remain seated. Protect your head with your arms. Wait for the earthquake to end before leaving the premises.