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Earthquakes & Terremotos

Earthquake / Terremotos / Temblor de Tierra Information for
Dominican Republic

Earthquakes / los Terremotos/ Temblor de Tierra

Yes, we do have earthquakes in Dominican Republic. We call an Earthquake in Spanish a Terremoto or Temblor de Tierra. Whatever you want to call them we do have this earth-shaking phenomenon occurring here on our island and we do have many earthquakes. The island of Hispaniola does have seismic activity almost daily, as with many places throughout the world, but the activity is so small that usually it cannot be felt. Every so often the quakes are strong and they can be felt. You can feel the earth move and sway under your feet!

Fault Lines | Fault Line Map | What to Do | Largest Quakes in Dominican Republic | The Quake Sept. 2003 | Recommended Emergency Products | Links to Earthquake Related Web Sites

The island of Hispaniola, part of the Greater Antilles chain of islands, rose out of the sea due to volcanic action. Dominican Republic has a long history of volcanic and seismic activity. The tallest mountain on the island, and for that matter in all of the Caribbean, is Pico Duarte. This mountain was at one time an active volcano. It rose out of the sea starting with this mountain and it is still rising. Many of the under water caves are not under water now. Don’t worry about Volcanoes for now. There are no active volcanos on our island.

Fault Lines

There are two major fault systems or lines that run through the island. In the North Hispaniola Trench. It is located just offshore running parallel to the north coast. The other is the Septentrional Fault Zone which runs from the North Hispaniola Trench to the Cibao Valley and Santiago. The Septentrional Fault Zone is responsible for most of the earthquakes in Dominican Republic’s history.
View a PDF document of the fault lines going through Dominican Republic by www.ig.utexas.edu

The Puerto Rico Trench (on the Northern side of Puerto Rico and the Northeast tip of Dominican Republic), which is close to the Mona Passage, marks a boundary where the North American tectonic plate and the Caribbean tectonic plate slide past each other, with the North American plate also subducting or sliding beneath the Caribbean plate. With water depths of more than 8 km (5 mi) make the Puerto Rico Trench the deepest part in the entire Atlantic Ocean.(see the map and learn more)

The Mona Passage is the water pass that divides Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic in the northeastern Caribbean. This area is very earthquake prone. Since the water level in this passage between the two islands is quite low it is very susceptible to Tsunamis. This passage has very fast flowing and dangerous waters with shifting currents that occur when the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea meet.
http://soundwaves.usgs.gov/2007/05/

Fault Lines / Fallas Sísmicas

Map - Fault lines/ fallas sísmicas running through the island of Hispaniola.
Map – Fault lines/ fallas sísmicas running through the island of Hispaniola.

There are also many smaller fault lines/ fallas sísmicas running through the island of Hispaniola. This is a map from Emergency Operations Center (COE) showing all the lines running through Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Brochures – What To Do

Below are the instructional brochures put out by the Emergency Operations Center about what to do before and after an Earthquake happens. They are in Spanish. Click on the images to see the images to enlarge.

COE Instructional Brochure - What to do before earthquake in Spanish
COE Instructional Brochure – What to do before earthquake in Spanish
COE Instructional Brochure - What to do after an  earthquake in Spanish
COE Instructional Brochure – What to do after an earthquake in Spanish

Many people say many different things one needs to do to be safe during an earthquake. Stand in a doorway, don’t stand in a doorway. Don’t go outside, get outside and away from buildings. Get under something inside your house, get in the “Triangle of Life” / “Triangulo de Vida” around a piece of furniture. While others say you need to “Drop, Cover, and Hold On.” / “Agacharse, cubrirse y agarrarse”. Our suggestion is to do a search and see what you should do in case an earthquake happens.

Make a plan with your family and loved ones what to do and where to meet in case of an emergency situation. We also suggest if you are coming on vacation don’t worry about it. Just come and enjoy. Leave all the worries at home and relax. Earthquakes do not happen often and the hotel staff will be there to inform all on their procedures.

The Largest Earthquakes

The largest earthquake on record in recent history for the Dominican Republic was August 15, 1946. It was recorded at 8.1 and centered in Matanza in Maria Trinidad Sánchez, Nagua on the northern part of the island (a large tsunami hit the coast from Arroyo Salado to Cabrera and left areas under water for about three weeks was recorded at that time).

Other notable quakes:
*1961 – 6.6 quake southeast of Santo Domingo.
*1971 – 6.0 quake registered in the Azua area.
*1991 – 7.0 quake recorded in the Central Mountains and San Juan de la Maguana area.
*March 1993 – a 5.2 earthquake affected the south and southwest parts of Dominican Republic along the Mona Passage.
*April 1993 – a 5.7 earthquake affected the Cibao region.
*June 1993 – a 5.1 earthquake affected San Francisco de Macoris area in the northeast.
*January 5th, 2012 – in Palmar de Ocoa (some information on the San Jose de Ocoa quake)
*January 22, 2012 – a 5.0 in the East near La Romana.
*January 23, 2012 – a 5.4 Rio San Juan.(some more information about this and more quakes in January 2012)
*May 28, 2014 – a 5.8 at Boca De Yuma – Mona Passage at 5:15PM
*February 4, 2019 – a 5.3 quake at 10:33AM. 31km SSE of Boca de Yuma, Dominican Republic. People felt it in Punta Cana, Santo Domingo, Haina, Bani, Las Terrenas and many other locations in the country.

There was a 9.0 earthquake when the Europeans occupied the island on December 2, 1562. It destroyed the cities of La Vega and Santiago. A quake estimated to be a 10.0 happened on October 18, 1751 and devastated the southern region. A terremoto estimated to be 11.0 happened on May 7, 1842 destroyed the north of Haiti and much of what is now the Dominican Republic.

There have been many earthquakes and tsunamis resulting from the tectonic-plate motions that have occurred in the history of the northeastern Caribbean.

Sept. 22, 2003 Quake

At 11:45 pm on 22 September 2003, a M 6.7 earthquake severely shook the northern part of Dominican Republic. It caused extensive damage to buildings in the major cities of Puerto Plata and Santiago along with landslides in the outlying areas. There were also several large aftershocks (over 200 in all) that happened in the days and hours following this quake.

Here are a few pictures of an earthquake that happened in September 2003. These were taken in the Puerta Plata area by our friend Cochman.

September 2003 Earthquake in Puerta Plata Dominican Republic house
September 2003 Earthquake in Puerta Plata Dominican Republic house
September 2003 Earthquake in Puerta Plata Dominican Republic store
September 2003 Earthquake in Puerta Plata Dominican Republic store
September 2003 Earthquake in Puerta Plata Dominican Republic observing the damage
September 2003 Earthquake in Puerta Plata Dominican Republic observing the damage
September 2003 Earthquake in Puerta Plata Dominican Republic house
September 2003 Earthquake in Puerta Plata Dominican Republic house

Recommended Emergency Products

The Earthquake Alarm (Amazon) can wake you up and alert you the moment a quake starts giving you more time to take cover.

*Operates off of a 9-volt battery.
*Loud distinctive alarm to wake you up.
*Can detect earthquakes miles away.
*Fully adjustable sensitivity setting. and more..(incluye instrucciones en espanol!)

I have heard many people use a detector and they say they work quite well. I recommend getting one if you live in any Earthquake prone area.

Another product that I read about is The Quake Escape

Ready America 70280 Emergency Kit, 2-Person, 3-Day Backpack. A backpack that keeps supplies at the ready. (Amazon)

*Sustains two people for three days
*Includes food, water, and emergency blankets
*One 33-piece first aid kit

NOAA Weather Radio and Solar Emergency Survival Device (Amazon)

*AM/FM Transmission
*Windup Power for Emergencies, Tornadoes, Hurricanes
*Micro USB Charger and Power Bank for Cell Phones and Electron

*The Dominican Republic Emergency Operations Center (COE). They now offer a downloadable App for emergency Alerts – Alerta COE.

Other instructions on how to prepare for an earthquake and other interesting web sites about earthquakes.
*ready.gov/earthquakes

*Acqweather, complete information on the weather in Dominican Republic.SPANISH

*Earthquake Report.com – The best independent earthquake reporting site in the world

*Create an Earthquake Emergency Handbook

*This is the Earthquake information from the Puerto Rico Seismic Network

*Earths view of Earthquake activity

*Quakes – Live Earthquakes Map and other interesting maps.

*Earthquake forecasting and hazard analysis.

*USGS Earthquakes Hazards Program has all the Earthquakes listed in the world for the last 7 days. The latest in USA and surrounding areas (including Dominican Republic – sometimes called Mona Passage) with an earthquake of Magnitude 2.5 or greater. All other areas of the world are listed when they have a quake with a Magnitude 4.0 or greater.

Basic Helps

Basic Helps and Important Travel information

Colonial Zone – You will hear it called many different names. Zona Colonial, La Zona, The Zone, Ciudad Colonial, Ciudad Trujillo, Santo Domingo.

For travel information and warnings given for UK, USA, Canada:

*United States Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs. For travel information. In case of emergency in Dominican Republic – United States Embassy in Santo Domingo. Call 809-221-2171 for help 24 hours a day.

*United Kingdom Foreign & Commonwealth Office. UK travel information

*Canada Foreign Affairs and International Trade. Canada travel information

Drugs and Dominican Republic are a real no-no. If you do get caught with ANYTHING they will take you to jail and it most likely WILL be a long time before you get out. Even if you are in a place and you see some drugs or drug dealing my advice to you is to get out of there and fast! Here in DR they are known to arrest everyone in a place and ask questions later, sometimes much later. (Read The Dominican Gringa Blog story on the Big Almost Drug Bust -new window)

Truck delivering the large jugs of bottled water called Botejon de Auga
Truck delivering the large jugs of bottled water called Botejon de Auga


DO NOT DRINK THE WATER! You could get the runs or worse. Drink bottled water, which most places have unless you are in remote areas. Ice is usually OK also because it is purchased from water distributors and is clean (ask if you want to make sure). The shaved ice vendors, ice in your juice or coco water that is purchased in the street is a definite NO-NO. It may not be a problem but even if you change your water anywhere from well water to city water you can have unwanted results. Why take the chance and have a bummer (LOL!) of a vacation?

Do just as you would in any other place. If you were in a strange neighborhood and there was a lonely, dark street or alley would you walk down it? I don’t think so. Use your head; you are in unfamiliar surroundings in a country where many people make less than $200 USD a month working a full time job (44 hours a week). Do not act better than anyone else. Do not wear your best designer clothing and expensive jewelry.

Try and carry a noise maker. Be it a loud car alarm, a hand held one, or your outside voice. If you do get robbed make noise. Robbers hate noise and attention drawn to them. Vigilantism lives in
Dominican Republic and people love to help when they see someone being wronged.

Try some new foods. You never will know if you like it unless you try it. I highly recommend
Mondongo. Never ask what it is. Just give it a try, then after you like it you can ask what it is, if you’re brave. Mondongo is the best after a night out partying if you feel like you will have a hangover (Resaca in Dominican Spanish). At least this is what I am told and so far it has worked wonders! There is also medicine sold in Colmados (the corner stores) that you take for a hangover, just say ” resaca” and they will know what you need.

Clap when the Airplane lands. Dominicans normally do this. Don’t be shocked. If they do it on your plane, just join in. You are on vacation. Relax.

It is not only what you know but also whom you know that makes dealing with many things go much smoother here in Dominican Republic. I also suggest asking around. Talk to the locals and see which businesses they recommend. Also remember to take your time. Dominicans love to talk. They like to take things slow. It is too hot to get worked up over the little things. Take time, get to know who you are dealing with and just enjoy the chatter.

Lip Talk. Dominicans, especially women, talk with their lips or noses (sort of like a Bewitched thing). They do not use words, just a flick or twitch to the right or left or a quick pout. This says more than any word ever could. Maybe the lips puckered for a quick second is saying, “yea, right, sure, I believe you.” (sarcasm). When getting directions no need to point just a lip flick to the left, right or straight ahead and one knows just what direction in which to precede. It takes some time to figure out what all the movements mean but it is fun trying to learn. So if you see people, especially the ladies, making nose and lip gestures you now have a better idea what is happening.

Security guard with gun. It was a cold day in the city (about 75°F lol)
Security guard with gun. It was a cold day in the city (about 75°F lol)

Men with guns. Don’t let this scare you. It sure frightened me the first time I visited. I never saw people sitting around so nonchalantly with a gun on their lap or hanging over their shoulders in public areas. It is quite the norm to see men, uniformed and in street clothes, standing or sitting in front of homes and businesses. Don’t be too worried. They are most likely private security guards

Do not start any altercation with anyone. No exchange of harsh words. No physical contact. Walk away. Do Not fight. This is not easy sometimes but it is best for your safety. Remember if the police get involved EVERYONE goes to jail until they figure out the details (sometimes until they get a little payment).

Make copies of all your documents. Carry the copies (unless your driving you do need the original drivers license). Put a copy of your passport or some type of identification in each piece of your luggage. Always carry a copy of your passport with you in a different place where you have the original. Have all the numbers of your credit cards and contact information in case there is a problem or your cards get stolen then you will not have to search for the information. Scan everything front and back, Credit Cards, ID’s, Bank Cards, Passports and email them to yourself. This way if anything gets lost or stolen you have all the information right there.

Keep your doors locked. Keep the hotel doors locked if you are inside or outside. Keep the car doors locked, especially when driving at night in a rental or a taxi, just keep the doors locked. You can also get an alarm to put on your
hotel door for added safety.

Think twice before taking a stranger into your hotel room or car. They can rob you much easier this way. If taking a bed partner to your room make sure all your belongings are secure. Better yet, take the person to a Cabana (a sex hotel where you are charged by the hour) or another room someplace else. This way they cannot gain access to your belongings, documents and money.