August 5

This Day in History

Disaster

Aug 5, 1948:

Earthquake causes deadly landslides in Ecuador

An earthquake hits Ecuador killing 6,000 people and injuring another 20,000 on this day in 1948. The 6.7-magnitude tremor was particularly deadly for its size.

The quake hit high in the Andes Mountains, about 100 miles south of Quito. The worst-affected cities were Ambato, Guano, Pelileo, Patate and Pillaro, though the tremor caused serious damage over an area of 1,500 square miles. Landslides set off by the quake proved to be the most deadly feature of the disaster. Houses fell down hills and others were buried. Approximately 100,000 people lost their homes. The landslides also caused some flooding by changing water-flow patterns. Some of the victims lost their lives to drowning.

In Ambato, the textile mills were hard hit, with hundreds of workers perishing. Only 300 of the 3,500 residents of Pelileo survived and virtually every home in the town was demolished. It was estimated that another 20,000 people suffered serious injuries from the earthquake. Further compounding the tragedy, a Shell Oil plane bringing rescue workers to the area crashed and killed all 34 people onboard.

An interesting side note to this disaster is that it exposed the body of Friar Lazaro, which had been mummified at a church in Guano. According to legend, Lazaro was the first missionary sent to the area after the European conquest of the Incas in the 16th century.

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