This Day in History: June 12th- The Assam Earthquake

This Day In History: June 12, 1897

assamJust after 5 pm on the evening of June 12, 1897, ominous rumbling was heard coming from the ground in northern India near Shillong. Then the rumbling ended, and approximately three minutes passed before the shock reached the surface. The earth shook with explosive violence for almost two minutes. Geologists believe that the quake originated twenty miles below the ground. The quake was one of the strongest ever recorded, measuring an 8.1 on the moment magnitude scale.

The upheaval and rolling of the earth completely destroyed everything in its path. Entire towns and villages spread out over 150 square miles of the lush, green region were totally decimated. The quake was so intense that people felt the tremors thousands of miles away in Delhi and Burma.

At the epicenter, the ground undulated upwards as much as three feet. The incredible might of the moving earth even completely stopped the flow of a river, while other bodies of water produced lethal waves due to the quake.

Strong aftershocks plagued Assam for days. There’s a story that a lamp continued swinging back and forth until June 15 in the nearby town of Tura. The earth had shifted thirty feet apart in some spots, leaving infrastructure such as bridges as useless heaps of mangled steel. Massive flooding also occurred, as the catastrophic damage to the terrain made the run-off from the annual heavy rains change course.

In the end, more than 1,500 people lost their lives, including 600 who died in a landslide.

In 1950, an even deadlier quake rocked Assam once again (this one measured at 8.6 on the moment magnitude scale), killing roughly the same amount of people as the 1897 quake.

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