The 1842 Earthquake

The May 7, 1842 earthquake caused extensive damage all along northern Hispaniola. Cap-Haitien was violently shaken by an MS 8.1 earthquake (19.5 N, 72.1 W) which occurred in the Northern Depression of Hispaniola (Haiti and Dominican Republic). It extended from Samana to Mole St. Nicolas, and crossing the Windward Passage, was felt along the Sierra Maestra in Cuba, and throughout the Antilles. The shocks annihilated the northwest Cape and killed 5,000 people (about half the population) at Cap-Haitien alone." Scherer (1912) reported, "In less than one minute the towns of Cap-Haitien, Santiago de los Caballeros, Port-de-Paix, Mole St. Nicolas, and Fort Liberte were reduced to heaps of ruins." Taber (1922) said, "The distribution of intensities and the phenomena of the accompanying sea-wave indicate that the earthquake resulted from a vertical displacement along the fault passing between Tortuga Island and St. Nicholas Peninsula." Shocks were also felt at Santo Domingo, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and almost all the West Indies. (ref #1492)
Scherer correlates five great earthquakes with the northern valley, which, as we have seen, is a physiographic manifestation of the Cayman Islands-Sierra Maestra-North Haiti fault zone. The shock of May 7, 1842 was the most destructive, though the intensity may have been no higher than during the earthquake of 1564... The distribution of intensities and the phenomena of the accompanying sea wave indicate that the earthquake resulted from a vertical displacement along a fault passing between Tortuga Island and the St. Nicholas Peninsula. The displacement may have continued eastward into the island, for it is stated that the-bed of the Yaqui River was suddenly heaved up driving its waters both up and down the stream. Along the coast the ocean first withdrew and then returned causing much destruction. (ref #427)
1842, May 7, 1700 6 MT. Destructive shock in Santo Domingo. Apparently felt in Jamaica and Puerto Rico. A terrible earthquake doing much damage and killing many people, especially in Haiti. Felt in San Juan. (ref #1189)
The following is from Ref #535:
1842, May 7. Haiti, Cap Haitien (IX) 17.3C h. Reduced to ruins. The shocks were so sudden that most of the inhabitants did not have time to leave their homes. The town was well constructed of stone and brick and was one of the finest cities of the Antilles. The ground opened in long cracks, mostly running north to south but some east to west. During the night, fires increased the death toll. It is estimated that over 5,0OO persons perished out of a population of 9,000-10,000 in Cap Haitien alone.
St. Domingo, Santiago de los Caballeros (IX) 17.30 h. Reduced to ruins although the houses were low and well-constructed. Many of the 2,000 inhabitants were killed-estimates vary between 100 and 500 deaths. The flow of the river Yaqui was interrupted.
Haiti, Port de Paix (IX) 17.30 h. Ruined by the earthquake and then overwhelmed by a wave. The sea drew back 200 feet from the shore and then advanced to cover the city with over 15 feet of water. No buildings at all remained standing. 200 out of 3,009 inhabitants perished.
Haiti, Mole St. Nicolaa (IX) 17.30 h. This fortified town of stone was entirely ruined by the shock. Only a "plan par terre" remained.
Haiti, Fort Liberte (IX) Reduced to ruins.
Haiti, Port-au-Prince (VII) a stone bas-relief fell from the facade of the Senate House. The south western peninsula apparently suffered least in the island.



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