Earthquakes in Brazil

Compared to some of his neighboring countries, Brazil is practically immune to natural disasters. All Brazilians volcanoes have been extinct for several million years (more about that here). As far as registers go, the country never witnessed a hurricane, although a first cyclone, dubbed Catarina, killed a few people and destroyed 1,500 houses in 2004. Floods are the only recurrent natural drama and produce several deaths every year, but they cannot be attributed to an unexpected amount of rain. Most of the losses are associated to the inadequate occupation of mountains and river banks, plus government neglect.

Even earthquakes are discreet if compared to those registered in another country of South America, Chile. The reason is simple. Earthquakes normally occur in the borders of the tectonic plates, the huge rocks that lay under the surface of the earth. Chile is more exposed because it is on the edge of the South American plate while Brazil is on the middle of the same plate, a much stabler place.

Check this image produced by the US Geological Survey and you will see that Brazil has only a few yellow circles – quakes with almost negligible impact.

And here are some facts you might want to know about earthquakes in Brazil:

  • Most of the biggest quakes happened in regions scarcely populated, like the various seisms registered in the state of Acre, in the Amazon.
  • Many sources indicate that the strongest earthquake ever registered in the country – 6.6 in the Richter scale – happened in the Tombador Mountains, in the state of Mato Grosso in 1955.
  • In 1986, João Câmara, in the state of Rio Grande do Norte, was in the headlines because of a rare sequence of hundreds of earthquakes. Between August and December, it registered several occurrences, including seven seisms over 4 degrees in the Richter scale.
  • In 2007, a 4.8 degree earthquake registered in Itacarambi, state of Minas Gerais, destroyed several houses, killed a child and injured five other people. This is the only death associated to the natural phenomenon in the country.


If you still feel insecure, you can always monitor these occurrences. One of the best available sources  is  the Universidade de Brasília’s Seismologic Observatory, that offers real time updates.

3 thoughts on “Earthquakes in Brazil”

  1. As I said in the text, I think this might be controversial – they are caused by nature…to some extent, but also by human incompetency or desperate need of occupying the only available land.

  2. Markuza, I believe (especially after this last year) that flooding causes much more deaths here than the droughts. Most droughts are part of the natural 1/2 year desert-like, 1/2 year oasis-like cycles of the Caatinga region, where relatively few people live. Every 10 years or so, there is a bad drought. But there are severe rains in some part of Brazil constantly (especially this year). I think about 1000 people have died this year alone, and it is sadly mostly due to people building houses on the sides of mountains without proper foundations, and deforestation, leavings things even more prone to flooding. My fervent hope is that these people will stop building there. But I’ve lived here for 15 years and that hasn’t happened yet.

    As for earthquakes, Regina, thank you very much for that post, that was really great!!

Comments are closed.