Colombia earthquakes leave Bogotá residents rattled and exhausted


When the fault line along the easternmost edge of the Eastern Cordillera of the Andes moves, Bogotá bears the brunt of the seismic rift, given that the Colombian capital is located 125 kilometers from the departmental capital of Meta, Villavicencio. On Wednesday, August 17, at 12:04 pm, a powerful 6.1 earthquake rocked the Colombian capital for close to three minutes.

As sirens blared across the city and buildings were evacuated, the Colombian Geological Service (SGC) confirmed that the epicenter of the quake was located at El Calvario, Meta, some 30 kilometers south of Villavicencio. The superficial earthquake (less than 30 kilometers deep) was then followed by another at 12:17, at the same location and with a magnitude of 5.6.

During several hours, Bogotá and cities across Colombia became inverted, with buildings empty and streets filled with people. In Villavicencio, hospitals were evacuated and patients wheeled out into broad daylight on stretchers and ICU units. But the rattling persisted, and at 12:40, the SGC confirmed a 4.8-magnitude quake near Acacías, Meta.

Over the next six hours, 46 aftershocks were reported, leaving Colombians shaken and exhausted. Then, as if the day wasn’t stressful enough, at 8:15 pm, another earthquake – 5.1 magnitude – set off the sirens in Bogotá and once again sent residents out into the streets. This time, the epicenter was in Restrepo, Meta, a town 25 kilometers north of Villavicencio.

Even though Bogotá endured the quakes with limited structural damage to buildings and one confirmed death – when a woman in a state of panic jumped from the balcony of a seventh-floor apartment – on Friday morning, the Colombian capital is returning to business as usual. But residents are more aware that the Eastern Cordillera is moving and may continue to do so in the days and weeks ahead. The quakes resulted in several landslides that blocked the Bogotá – Villavicencio highway.

Seismicity in Colombia and the importance of emergency preparedness

Colombia’s geographical location makes it prone to seismic activity. The recent quakes in Bogotá serve as a reminder of the unpredictable nature of earthquakes and the potential risks they pose. It’s essential for all residents to be proactive in their safety preparations. Creating emergency kits with essential supplies such as water, non-perishable food, medications, first aid items, flashlights, and batteries can make a significant difference in case of a disaster. Additionally, having a family emergency plan in place and staying informed about local emergency procedures can help minimize the impact of such events. By taking these precautions, individuals and communities can better navigate the challenges of seismic events.