Manila is situated on both sides of the river Pasig. The town itself, surrounded with walls and ramparts, with its low tiled roofs and scattered towers. It appeared like some ancient European fortress.
On June 3, 1863 at 7:31pm an earthquake shook the preparations for the festival of Corpus Christi.
The firmest buildings reeled visibly, walls crumbled, and beams snapped in two. The dreadful shock lasted half a minute. But this little interval was enough to:
- turn the whole town into a mass of ruins, and
- bury alive hundreds of people.
A letter of the Governor-General states that:
- the cathedral, the government-house, the barracks, and all the public buildings of Manila were entirely destroyed
- the few private houses which remained standing threatened to fall in.
Later accounts speak of 400 killed and 2,000 injured. The estimate was a loss at $8m.
46 public and 570 private buildings were thrown down. 28 public, 528 private buildings were nearly destroyed. All the houses left standing were more or less injured.
At the same time, an earthquake of 40 seconds’ duration occurred at Cavite, the naval port of the Philippines, and destroyed several buildings.
3 years later, the Duke of Alençon (Luzon and Mindanao; Paris, 1870) found the traces of the catastrophe everywhere.
Three sides of the principal square of the city, in which formerly stood the government-house, the cathedral, and the town-house, were lying like dust heaps overgrown with weeds. All the large public edifices were “temporarily” constructed of wood; but no one appeared to have thought of building anything permanent.
Manila is very often subject to earthquakes.
|1601||This was the most fatal|
|Nov 30, 1610|
|Nov 30, 1645||600-3,000||The monastery, the church of the Augustines, and that of the Jesuits, were the only public buildings which remained standing|
|Aug 20, 1658|
Smaller shocks, which suddenly set the hanging lamps swinging, occur very often and generally remain unnoticed. The houses are on this account generally of but one story, and the loose volcanic soil on which they are built tends to lessen the violence of the shock. Their heavy tiled roofs, however, appear very inappropriate under the circumstances.
Earthquakes are also of frequent occurrence in the provinces, but they, as a rule, cause so little damage, owing to the houses being constructed of timber or bamboo, that they are never mentioned,
M. Alexis Perrey gives, in the memoirs of the Dijon Academy for 1850, a catalogue, collected with much diligence from every accessible source, of the earthquakes which have visited the Philippines, and particularly Manila.
But the accounts, except of the most important, are very scanty, and the dates of their occurrence very unreliable.
Of the minor shocks, only a few are mentioned, those which were noticed by scientific observers accidentally present at the time.
Aduarte mentions a tremendous earthquake which occurred in 1610.