Damaging earthquakes in March 2021

Published: 04/04/2021

In March 2021, 19 damaging earthquakes have been registered. 5 people were killed, 144 others were injured and around 12,000 buildings were damaged. With about four percent of all earthquake damage since the beginning of the year, March has so far been the month with the lowest earthquake losses.

14 countries were affected by these earthquakes. Three earthquakes reached an impact value of over 1.5, making them the most serious of the month. Especially the earthquake sequence in Greece at the beginning of March lead to international attention. Within a few days, several strong earthquakes up to magnitude 6.3 occurred near the city of Larisa. In addition to numerous geological effects such as soil liquefaction, rock falls and deformations, numerous buildings were damaged. Authorities registered around 5000 cases of damage by the end of the month. Around 1,800 houses are temporarily unusable. Eleven people were injured during the earthquakes (Impact value 1.99).

The strong earthquake on March 18th (M6.0) near the Algerian city of Bejaia also caused relatively large losses. 65 people were injured and around 2,000 buildings in the densely populated region were damaged. Due to the epicenter being off the coast, the impact of the quake was weakened. A small tsunami affected several coasts of the western Mediterranean without any damage, including Mallorca, Sardinia and the Cote d’Azur in France (impact value 1.53).

A strong earthquake in Tibet one day later (M5.8) caused additional property damage but no injuries. According to the authorities, around 5000 buildings were damaged at varying degrees. There was no information about displaced people (impact value 1.65).

A different situation was found in the Chinese province of Xinjiang on March 23rd, where the deadliest quake of the month happened (M5.4). “Only” 65 damaged buildings were confirmed in the sparsely populated epicentral region. 19 of them collapsed. However, three people were killed by the collapsed buildings (impact value 1.00).

An earthquake in Colombia (M5.1) on March 1st (impact value 0.53) also resulted in two indirect fatalities and minor property damage. Another one in Kenya on March 11th (M4.7) lead to 56 people injured as a result of a mass panic in a school in Tanzania. No information about damage (impact value 1.18).

The strongest earthquakes of the month caused no significant losses. They all occurred within a few hours on March 4th off the coast of New Zealand. After an M7.1 near the coast of the North Island, two larger ones with M7.5 and 8.1 followed near the Kermadec island of Raoul. All three quakes caused small tsunamis. The north coast of New Zealand faced three tsunami warnings in one day but without any tsunami losses. The first of the earthquakes however slightly damaged 27 buildings (impact value 0.1). On Raoul, numerous landslides were triggered by the strong earthquakes. The few scientific facility buildings on the island that were not occupied at this time due to the Covid-19 pandemic and remained undamaged.

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