Killer earthquakes in the Azores and Madeira (Portugal)

Azores and Madeira deadly earthquake list

M 5.8   9-7-1998   Northeast of Faial (Azores) “ killing 9 people
Felt in the islands of Faial (Ribeirinha, VIII; Horta, VI) and Pico (Madalena, VI; Roque, IV).
More than 1500 buildings were destroyed or severely damaged, namely in the northeast of Faial.
The collapse of buildings caused eight deaths and 150 injured. Another person died from heart attack.

M 7.2   1-1-1980    Terceira (Azores) “ killing 61 people
Felt in the islands of Terceira (Doze Ribeiras, VIII/IX; Angra do Herosmo, VII/VIII; Praia da Vitria, VI), Sao Jorge (Topo, VII/VIII; Calheta, VI/VII; Velas, IV/V), Graciosa (Luz, VI/VII; Guadalupe, V), Pico (Silveira, VI; Sao Roque, V; Madalena and Lajes, IV/V) and Faial (Horta, IV/V). Also felt in Sao Miguel and Santa Maria.
Thousands of buildings collapsed or were severely damaged throughout the entire island of Terceira, particularly in its western half. Severe to moderate damages in the islands of Sao Jorge and Graciosa. Generate a small tsunami. Toll: 61 deaths (45 in Terceira and 16 in Sao Jorge), 400 injured and more than 21,000 homeless.

M ?    27-4-1935    Povoa, Sao Miguel (Azores) “ killing 1 person
Felt in the entire Sao Miguel island: Povoasao (VII), Vila Franca do Campo (VI), Ponta Delgada (V) and Ribeira Grande (IV).
Many buildings collapsed or were severely damaged in Ribeira Quente, near Povoa, causing the death of one person and injures in a few others. Landslides occurred in several places.

Horta, Faial, Azores (Portugal) - image courtesy

M 5.6    31-8-1926    Horta, Faial (Azores) “ killing 9 people
Felt in the islands of Faial (Horta and Flamengos, IX), Pico (Madalena, VII; Sao Roque, VI; Lajes, V), Sao Jorge (Velas, VI; Calheta, V), Terceira (III/IV), Graciosa (III) and Sao Miguel (II).
Most buildings of the island of Faial collapsed or were severely damaged, causing 9 deaths and more than 200 injured. Considerable damage caused also in the island of Pico.

M ?    21-1-1886    Funchal (Madeira) “ killing 1 person
Slightly felt in Funchal, caused no material damage.
As a result of the shock, a woman felt into the sea and died.

M 6.1    9-2-1881    Povoa, Sao Miguel (Azores) “ killing 1 person
Felt in the whole Sao Miguel island: Povoa (VII).
Around 300 houses were ruined.

M ?    16-4-1852    Ribeira Grande, Sao Miguel (Azores) “ killing 9 people
Felt in the whole São Miguel island (Santa Bárbara and Ribeira Grande, VIII; Ponta Delgada, VII; Povoação, V) and also in the islands of Terceira (IV/V), Santa Maria and Graciosa (III/IV), São Jorge, Pico and Faial (II/III).
Caused several landslides. Many buildings destroyed or severely damaged in the island of São Miguel.
At least nine deaths and several people badly injured.

M ?    21-1-1837    Graciosa (Azores) “ killing 3 people
Felt in Guadalupe and Santa Cruz (IX) and in the entire island of Graciosa.
Many buildings collapsed or were severely damaged.
Three children were killed by building collapse.

M ?    26-1-1801    Southeast of Terceira (Azores) “ killing 2 people
Felt in São Sebastião (VIII) and in the entire island of Terceira.
In São Sebastião, most buildings were severely damaged.

Vila de Calheta, Sao Jorge, Azores - image courtesy Ruben Valadao -

M 7.4    9-7-1757    Calheta, Sao Jorge (Azores) “ killing more than 1,200 people

Felt in the whole island of Sao Jorge: Calheta (XI), Velas (VIII). Also felt in the islands of Pico (VII), Terceira (VI), Faial, Graciosa and Sao Miguel
Generated a tsunami and landslides in the eastern half of Sao Jorge, where it caused total destruction. Many houses and churches collapsed in the island of Pico. Severe damages in buildings at Terceira.
More than 1200 deaths in Sao Jorge, 11 deaths in Pico and 1 person killed in Terceira.

M ?    31-3-1748    Funchal (Madeira) “ killing 4 people
Felt in the whole island, severely damaging many houses and churches in Funchal and throughout the entire island.

M 6,3    24-5-1614    Praia da Vitaria, Terceira (Azores) “ killing more than 200 people
Felt in the entire Terceira island (Praia da Vitaria, IX; Angra do Heroasmo, VI) and also in the islands of Sao Jorge, Graciosa, Pico and Faial.
Total or partial destruction of the buildings of the eastern part of the Terceira island.

M ?     27-7-1591    Vila Franca do Campo, Sao Miguel  (Azores) “ killing many people
Felt in Vila Franca do Campo (VIII/IX). Many buildings destroyed. Landslides have occurred.

M ?    17-5-1547    Northwest of Terceira (Azores) “ killing at least 3 people
Felt in the island of Terceira (Biscoitos, VII/VIII).
Severe damages in houses and churches. Landslides have occurred.

M 6,8    22-10-1522    Vila Franca do Campo, Sao Miguel  (Azores) “ killing 3000 to 5,000 people

Felt in the whole São Miguel island: Vila Franca do Campo (X), Lagoa (VIII), Ponta Delgada (VIII), Nordeste (VII) and Ribeira Grande (VI).
The earthquake and the landslides completely destroyed Vila Franca do Campo, killing most of its inhabitants. Severe damages in buildings throughout the rest of the island.


The data compiled in this list was obtained through the consultation of the scientific publications or monographs of the following authors and organizations: Antonio Brum da Silveira, Carlos Azevedo de Meneses, Carlos Sousa Oliveira, Dina Silveira, Fernando Augusto da Silva, Frederico Machado, Gabriela Queiroz, Joao Carlos Nunes, Joao Lus Gaspar, Joso Madeira, Observatorio Vulcanologico e Sismologico da Universidade dos Azores, Raul de Miranda, Teresa Ferreira and Victor Hugo Forjaz.
The present authors complemented their data with the consultation of coeval accounts published in the Azorean and Portuguese newspapers, highlighting some of these events.

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  1. Hiya,
    Great report once again you two! Fantastic summary of Madeira and Azores earthquakes...

    Just wondering about a few earthquakes in addition to those that you mentioned in my CATDAT Damaging Earthquakes Database.
    I had a couple of dates different back in the 17th Century quakes... and also the following:-

    ----------------1. --------------
    The 23rd November 1973 earthquake - CATDAT Sources -
    23.11.1973 13:36 UTC depth 19km (38.486, -28.329), Ms5.3
    Intensity VIII in the island of Pico (Azores) ; 1 person killed; 3,700 people had
    to be rehoused ; the shock was felt in the other islands of the Azores with intensity VII on
    Faial, intensity IV on Terceira and intensity II on Graciosa (3).

    Earthquake shook the islands of Pico and Faial, in the portion of October 11, residents felt numerous aftershocks on Pico, Faial and São Jorge with particular prominence over the parish of São Mateus and the locality of Terra do Pão, and Pico island. On November 23 at 12:36 p.m. OST (2:36 p.m. GMT), measured a violent earthquake (at 7/8 on the Wood-Neumann scale) with the epicenter near Santo Antonio on Pico. The earthquake caused major damage, with many houses partially damaged, fallen walls and displaced streets and roads, the parishes of Bandeiras Santa Luzia, Santo Antóónio and São Roque in the north coast of Pico and São Mateus in the south coast and damaged the parishes of Conceição, Matriz and Flamengos in the island of Faial

    There are reports of 1 death....

    -------------------------2. ----------
    Apart from that, I was also wondering about the Valas, Azores earthquake of 21.12.1641
    (38.7, -28.1).

    A great wave (probably from seaquake) in Velas, São Jorge, on December 21, it created a wave near Monte dos Fachos causing great destruction to the town.
    Causing around 50 deaths....

    There are also reports of possible seismic deaths associated with Pico Gordo (the volcano) in the 1761 eruption... not just eruption deaths...

    James Daniell

    • Ana Paula Correia and José Ribeiro (Portugal) says

      Hi James

      Many thanks for your encouraging words.
      Now, about the three additional cases ...
      a) It is true that on the 23rd november 1973 there was a big quake (intensity VII/VIII MM1956), felt mainly in the islands of Pico, Faial and São Jorge. However, we couldn't find accounts of deaths, but only of a person injured. We will search further.
      b) About the 21st December 1641, the picture is different. There were 50 deaths caused by a wave, indeed, as coeval accounts told. We didn´t include it only because there are still doubts about its origin: seismic or other. The same holds for other tsunami events ocurred in the Azores, like those of 1653 and 1899, both causing victims and destruction.
      c) Finally, the 1761 Terceira volcanic and seismic crisis caused no victims, but destroyed dozens of houses, according to the reports we have consulted. Still, maybe more detailed accounts could support the deaths you mentioned.
      Undoubtely, it is hard to scrutiny between these ancient accounts.

      And thanks again for your meticulous searches.


      Ana Paula
      & José

    • Hi Ana Paula and Jose,
      Thanks for the feedback.
      Yes, I have dual sources with a death for the 1973 quake, but I also have 0 to 1 in the accepted range...
      With older records, you are right, it is difficult! We will prob. never know if it was seismic or weather related.