1838 Vrancea earthquake

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1838 Vrancea earthquake
1838 Vrancea earthquake is located in Romania
1838 Vrancea earthquake
Local date 11 January 1838[1]
Local time 20:45 (EET)
Duration 3–5 minutes
Magnitude 7.3 Ms
7.5 Mw
Epicenter 45°43′N 26°43′E / 45.717°N 26.717°E / 45.717; 26.717Coordinates: 45°43′N 26°43′E / 45.717°N 26.717°E / 45.717; 26.717
Areas affected Romania
Max. intensity 9 MSK
Landslides Yes
Casualties 73 dead, 14 injured

The 1838 Vrancea earthquake struck the western part of Vrancea County on 23 January (O.S. 11 January)[2] with a magnitude of 7.5. The seism caused extensive damage in Moldavia and Wallachia, and killed dozens of people.[3] The earthquake occurred just 36 years after another earthquake of magnitude over 7 on Richter scale devastated the southern part of Romanian Principalities.

The earthquake occurred at 20:45, being felt strongly in Bucharest and also all over the country up to Lviv, Sevastopol, Constantinople (Istanbul), Odessa, etc.[4] A detailed report on the phenomenon was promptly done by Güstav Schuller, mining geologist in the service of the Duke of Saxony. He said the quake had a foreshock followed by three strong shocks.[5]

During this earthquake, in some areas, especially the epicentral zone, mainly in Vrancea, Buzău, Brăila and Dâmbovița counties appeared large ground cracks and liquefaction phenomena.


The earthquake was felt on very large areas, affecting inclusive the cities of Transylvania and Banat. Timișoara suffered extensive damage, and the Prejmer fortified church was nearly destroyed. Two motions were felt in Sibiu, on the east-west direction, and several buildings suffered damage. Strong shakings were also felt in Nadăș village. The river ice has been broken. Many people were injured. The earthquake was also felt in Cluj, but it was very weak.[6]

But the greatest damage concentrated in Wallachia, where 217 churches collapsed or were severely damaged, most of them in Râmnicu Vâlcea and Craiova.[7] According to an official report, 36 houses were destroyed in Bucharest,[8] among them the Manuc's Inn and St. Sylvester Church.[9] Likewise, four churches collapsed, and other 50 buildings were badly damaged, including the Princely Palace. România newspaper reported that the seism was preceded by "a hissing and a whizzing so great that froze the hearts of fear".[10] Prince Alexandru Ghica was surprised by the quake inside a theater, together with much of the nobility. Panic took hold immediately on the audience, which began to trample to exit the theater.[10] Several women fainted, being dragged down by the others to be removed from the building that could collapse. That night, Prince Ghica, with officers and army, visited all parts of Bucharest to see with his eyes the disaster.[10] In Brăila was affected the city hospital, patients being evacuated to another hospital.[11]

The quake was strongly felt in Moldavia, where, among other consequences, there was a massive landslide, that closed Ghilcoș Brook, tributary of the Bicaz River, phenomenon following which would be formed the Red Lake. In the Abeille moldave (Romanian: Аlbina românească), a political and literary gazette led by Gheorghe Asachi, it was reported that a violent earthquake was felt Tuesday, 11 January 1838, at 8:25 p.m., in Iași and lasted 35 seconds.[12] Here, several houses and churches (among them Curelari and St. Spiridon) reported cracks in walls, and the theater was evacuated without any incidents.[12]

Gustav Schüller (Gustave Schueler), Counselor for Mining to the Grand Duke of Saxony, expert instructed by the Ministry for Internal Affairs, reported large cracks in the ground and soil liquefaction "both on Wallachian territory and that of Moldova".[13] The report relates that "in the visited areas all massive buildings, made of stone heavily suffered and many of them, mainly churches, cannot be used". On the contrary, "the peasants' houses, as well as all structures made in timber, have been able to deflect since they were flexible, so they suffered less".

Damage by county[edit]

County Damage reported[14]
Vâlcea 39 churches destroyed
Romanați 53 churches destroyed
Olt 17 churches destroyed
Mehedinți 4 churches destroyed
Râmnicu Sărat Severe damage, large cracks in the ground
Putna Severe damage, large cracks in the ground

Effects outside Romania[edit]

The earthquake was felt on a large area, from Russia to Poland and from Albania to Ukraine.[15] In the following table are presented localities and areas mentioned in historical sources, where the mainshock was felt outside the 1838 borders of Romania.[16]

Locality name
Locality name
Country Lat. Lon. I
Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi Akkerman  Ukraine 46.13 30.30 5 Accompanied by two strokes in underground roar from south to north-west, and lasted two minutes.
Bălți Bălți  Moldova 47.45 27.55 5 Minor cracks in the buildings, doors cracked.
Berdychiv Berdychiv  Ukraine 49.89 28.60 F It was felt.
Budapest Budapest  Hungary 47.18 19.00 F It was observed.
Chernivtsi Chernivtsi  Ukraine 48.18 25.56 5.5 Windows were broken.
Kiliya Kiliya  Ukraine 45.42 29.28 5.5 Big earthquake; lasted three minutes and a half, causing cracks in some houses.
Chișinău Chișinău  Moldova 47.03 28.88 7 It was heard a loud bang, followed by an underground hit, then the earth started wobbling, the walls and roofs were vibrating, the doors, windows, and furniture cracked, some things felt.
Yevpatoria Eupatoria  Crimea 45.20 33.36 F Felt.
Istanbul Constantinople  Turkey 41.01 28.98 F Two shakes were felt severely.
Izmail Izmail  Ukraine 45.35 28.84 7 It lasted three minutes. In all buildings walls were cracked, ovens and chimneys were more or less damaged, and in some houses the walls completely collapsed. Six people received slight injuries from the collapse of their walls and plaster. The Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Protection was severely damaged.
Zhytomyr Zhytomyr  Ukraine 50.25 28.67 F Felt.
Kharkiv Kharkiv  Ukraine 50.00 36.23 F Lasted 30 seconds; felt; tree curl.
Kursk Kursk  Russia 51.72 36.18 4 Swinging chandeliers and lamps.
Kaluga Kaluga  Russia 54.53 36.27 F Lasted 10 seconds.
Eger Eger  Hungary 47.90 20.37 F Felt.
Dnipropetrovsk Yekaterinoslav  Ukraine 48.46 35.03 F Felt.
Kiev Kiev  Ukraine 50.45 30.52 F Felt.
Shkodër Shkodra  Albania 42.07 19.53 F The shock was perceptible in the region of Lake Skadar.
Leova Leova  Moldova 46.48 28.25 7 Earthquake accompanied by a terrible roar; three more blows shook the house foundation, the stoves and chimneys were wrecked, the windows broken, the doors bounced and the walls were cracked. Church bells beat by itself.
Milan Milan  Italy 45.46 9.19 F Felt.
Moscow Moscow  Russia 55.27 37.22 F Felt.
Odessa Odessa  Ukraine 46.47 30.73 F Violent shocks.
Saint Petersburg Saint Petersburg  Russia 59.34 30.12 F Felt.
Soroca Soroca  Moldova 48.17 28.30 5.5 Cracks only in some houses, the furniture moved.
Bender Tighina  Moldova 46.77 29.48 5.5 Felt vibrating the soil, cracks in houses.
Tryavna Tryavna  Bulgaria 42.87 25.50 6 Felt.
Vienna Vienna  Austria 48.12 16.22 F It was observed.
Veliko Tarnovo Veliko Tarnovo  Bulgaria 43.08 25.66 6 It was severe.
Warsaw Warsaw  Poland 52.08 21.00 F Felt.
Vidin Vidin  Bulgaria 44.09 23.08 F Felt.


On 13 January 1838, Manolache Florescu, Bucharest Police Chief, submitted a report, according to that 73 people lost their lives and 14 were injured. Among victims, eight were from Bucharest. But the Consul General of France in Bucharest, Marquis de Châteaugiron, reported over 720 dead and as many wounded.[18] Prof. Dr. Gheorghe Mărmureanu, Director of the National Institute for Earth Physics, stated that in the 1838 earthquake "767 people died".[19] Andreas Ludwig Jeitteles (1799–1878), a Czech physician and writer, quotes in one of his works 12 deaths and 40 wounded in Bucharest.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Borcea Ștefan (18 March 2014). "Cutremurele de acum 200 de ani, pe limba martorilor evenimentelor. "Pământul pe alocurea s-au despicat și au eșit apă cu miros de iarbă de pușcă și de pucioasă"". Adevărul (in Romanian). 
  2. ^ "Dosare istorice: Cutremurul din 1838", Optimal Media, March 3, 2012
  3. ^ Corbu, Adrien C. (1936). Bucureștii vechi, documente iconografice. Bucharest: Cartea românească. p. 18. 
  4. ^ Constantin, A. P.; Pantea, A.; Stoica, R. (25 May 2010). "Vrancea (Romania) subcrustal earthquakes: historical sources and macroseismic intensity assessment" (PDF). Horia Hulubei National Institute of Physics and Nuclear Engineering. 
  5. ^ "ISTORIE. Care au fost cele mai mari cutremure în România", EVZ.ro, April 18, 2013
  6. ^ Rogozea, M.; Marmureanu, Gh.; Radulian, M.; Toma, D. (2014). Reevaluation of the macroseismic effects of the 23 January 1838 Vrancea earthquake (PDF). Romanian Reports in Physics. 66. pp. 520–538. 
  7. ^ "Cutremurul cel Mare", National Geographic România, August 2005
  8. ^ de Démidoff, M. A. (1841). Bourdin, E., ed. Voyage dans la Russie Méridionale et la Crimée par la Hongrie, la Valachie et la Moldavie (in French). Paris. 
  9. ^ "România a fost zguduită de cinci cutremure de peste 7 pe Richter în ultimii 200 de ani", Realitatea.net, March 4, 2008
  10. ^ a b c Ramona Ursu (4 March 2012). "Blestemele lui Dumnezeu asupra Capitalei: istoria cutremurelor care i-au îngrozit pe bucureșteni. Cum s-a refăcut orașul!". Adevărul (in Romanian). 
  11. ^ "Brăila în perioada 1837–1838". Brăileanism din 1368. 6 May 2014. 
  12. ^ a b Mihaela Dicu (21 January 2014). "Cutremurele din România (partea I)". Astrele (in Romanian). 
  13. ^ Victor Cilincă (15 October 2013). "La Izvoarele, dar și la Galați / Cutremurul din 1838 a fost și mai afurisit!". Viața Liberă (in Romanian). 
  14. ^ "Istoria cutremurelor în România". Forpedia (in Romanian). 24 November 2010. 
  15. ^ Shebalin, N. V.; Karnik, V.; Hadzievski, D. (1974). Catalogue of earthquakes of the Balkan region. I. Skopje: UNDP-UNESCO Survey of the seismicity of the Balkan region. p. 600. 
  16. ^ Perrey, A. (1846). Mémoire sur les tremblements de terre dans le bassin du Danube (PDF) (in French). Lyon: Annales des sciences Phys. et Natur. 
  17. ^ Réthly, A. (1952). A Kárpátmedencék földrengései (in Hungarian). Budapest. pp. 455–1918. 
  18. ^ "Cutremure devastatoare în București", Ziarul Ring, March 11, 2011
  19. ^ Larisa and Constantin Iftime (2 June 2009). "Eu nu pot să spun când va fi următorul cutremur, dar pot să spun că nu urmează acum". Ziarul Lumina (in Romanian). 
  20. ^ Georgescu, Emil-Sever (August 2004). "Forensic engineering studies on historical earthquakes in Romania" (PDF). IIT Kanpur.