The Great Tumaco, Colombia Earthquake of 12 December 1979

Science  30 Jan 1981:
Vol. 211, Issue 4481, pp. 441-445
DOI: 10.1126/science.211.4481.441


Southwestern Colombia and northern Ecuador were shaken by a shal-low-focus earthquake on 12 December 1979. The magnitude 8 shock, located near Tumaco, Colombia, was the largest in northwestern South America since 1942 and had been forecast to fill a seismic gap. Thrust faulting occurred on a 280- by 130-kilometer rectangular patch of a subduction zone that dips east beneath the Pacific coast of Colombia. A 200-kilometer stretch of the coast tectonically subsided as much as 1.6 meters; uplift occurred offshore on the continental slope. A tsunami swept inland immediately after the earthquake. Ground shaking (intensity VI to IX) caused many buildings to collapse and generated liquefaction in sand fills and in Holocene beach, lagoonal, and fluvial deposits.