The 1947 Satipo Earthquake

Posted by Karl Lundgren on

Imagine a crisp morning in the remote town of Satipo, nestled deep in the heart of Peru's Junín Region. It's November 1, 1947, and the sun's first rays gently kiss the landscape, awakening the town's inhabitants to the promise of a new day. The sleepy town, surrounded by lush forests and flowing rivers, goes about its usual rhythm, unaware of the invisible forces that have been silently building beneath their feet for years. The Nazca Plate and the South American Plate, locked in a geological tango, are about to unleash their pent-up energy in a seismic spectacle that will forever alter the course of Satipo's history. At precisely 5:11 AM, the earth beneath them stirs, setting in motion a cataclysmic event – the 1947 Satipo earthquake. In this article, we journey back in time to explore the forgotten catastrophe that rocked Satipo, its devastating consequences, and the remarkable resilience of a community thrust into the heart of a seismic tempest.

In the annals of history, some natural disasters are etched in our collective memory, while others remain shrouded in obscurity. The 1947 Satipo earthquake falls into the latter category. This seismic event, which struck the town of Satipo in Peru, holds a significant place in the region's history. In this article, we will delve into the details of the 1947 Satipo earthquake, its impacts, and its enduring legacy.

I. The Prelude

On November 1, 1947, residents of Satipo, a town located in the Junín Region of Peru, were going about their daily routines, unaware of the impending catastrophe. The earth beneath their feet, however, was quietly building up tension.

Geological Context:

Satipo is situated near the convergence of the Nazca Plate and the South American Plate, making it part of the seismically active Pacific Ring of Fire. These geological conditions set the stage for potential seismic events.

II. The Earthquake

The Ground Shakes:

At 5:11 AM local time, the residents of Satipo were jolted awake by a powerful earthquake. The earthquake had a magnitude of 7.3 on the Richter scale and a depth of approximately 100 kilometers. This depth played a crucial role in the event's intensity, as deeper earthquakes often generate less surface shaking but can still be highly destructive.

Tremors and Aftershocks:

The initial tremor lasted for approximately 90 seconds, causing significant damage to buildings, infrastructure, and roads in the town. Following the main shock, numerous aftershocks further exacerbated the situation, leaving the population in a state of perpetual fear.

III. The Aftermath

Widespread Devastation:

The destruction caused by the 1947 Satipo earthquake was immense. Many buildings, including schools, churches, and residential homes, were reduced to rubble. Infrastructure such as bridges and roads suffered severe damage, cutting off Satipo from the outside world.

Loss of Life and Injury:

The human toll of the earthquake was heartbreaking. Official reports suggest that around 90 people lost their lives, with hundreds more sustaining injuries. The remote location of Satipo, coupled with limited access, made it challenging for relief efforts to reach the affected areas quickly.

IV. The Response

Local and International Aid:

In the aftermath of the earthquake, the Peruvian government launched relief efforts to assist the affected population. International aid, notably from the United States, provided essential supplies and medical assistance. Despite these efforts, the remote and challenging terrain of Satipo made the recovery process slow and arduous.

Reconstruction Efforts:

The rebuilding process was a test of resilience for the people of Satipo. New earthquake-resistant structures replaced the damaged buildings, and infrastructure was gradually restored. The town's resilience in the face of adversity was a testament to the human spirit.

V. Legacy and Lessons

The 1947 Satipo earthquake, although not widely known on the global stage, had a profound impact on the local community. It serves as a reminder of the power and unpredictability of nature, as well as the importance of preparedness and resilience.


This earthquake emphasized the importance of earthquake preparedness, even in regions that may not be perceived as high-risk areas. Education and public awareness campaigns became integral in the years following the disaster.

Building Codes:

The destruction of many older, non-earthquake-resistant structures highlighted the need for stronger building codes and regulations. Subsequent construction projects in Satipo adhered to stricter seismic standards.


The people of Satipo showcased their remarkable resilience in the face of adversity. The earthquake brought the community together, fostering a sense of unity and determination to rebuild and move forward.


The 1947 Satipo earthquake remains a lesser-known chapter in the history of natural disasters. However, its impact on the town and its people was profound. This seismic event serves as a stark reminder of the unpredictable nature of earthquakes and the importance of preparedness and resilience, even in areas not traditionally considered high-risk. Satipo's story is one of recovery, community spirit, and rebuilding in the face of adversity, a testament to the strength of the human spirit.

So what can we do to get better prepared?


A kit is not a safety blanket you just purchase to make yourself feel better, it is an important investment in your household’s safety and preparedness. Not all emergency kits are created equal, and we highly recommend using the Province of BC and Government of Canada resources when building or buying a kit. We are also pleased to offer Earthquake Kits that developed to meet the government requirements for emergency preparedness. Visit our Gov BC Earthquake Kit product page to view the contents of our kits and feel free to use this as a guideline for assembling your own. What’s important to us is not that you buy a kit from us, but that every household have a kit at the ready in case something unexpected should occur.


The Province of BC and the Federal Government have made huge strides in this area in recent years implementing an Emergency Notifications network through mobile carriers and testing it to great success levels. This can provide seconds to even minutes of advanced notice prior to an earthquake being felt in any given location. However, a network of this complexity relies on strategically positioned censors along the coastline. We need to continue expanding this network of sensors and make sure that existing censors are being properly monitored and maintained.

We also need to expand from mobile phone notifications to physical alarms in homes, buildings, and especially schools/daycares.

For more details on how this Early Detection Grid works, please check out the following video by the CBC several years ago.


Know the Hazards

Knowing which hazards you need to plan for is the first step to getting prepared


Build Your Kits

Put together a household emergency kit and grab-and-go bag.


Make Your Plan

Plan how you will respond to a disaster to stay focused and safe.


Guides and Resources

Preparedness guides and community resources are available to help get ready for emergencies.


Evacuation and Recovery Resources

Learn what happens in evacuations, what financial assistance you might be eligible for and other recovery resources.


Education Programs and Toolkits

Create awareness about preparing for emergencies with Prepared BC's easy-to-use education programs and social media toolkits.

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