78 years have passed since the earthquake that devastated San Juan

Today marks another anniversary of the earthquake that destroyed part of the province 78 years ago.

It occurred on January 15, 1944 at 8:52 p.m. and had its epicenter 20 km north of the city of San Juan, near La Laja (Albardón department). It destroyed 80 percent of the city and this earthquake in Argentina is considered the most destructive natural event ever recorded in the country’s history. Its maximum intensity was 9 on the modified Mercalli scale.

At that time the people of San Juan were preparing to have dinner or were at the doors of their houses finishing a hot summer day. Suddenly the city fell under the rubble causing chaos and despair of the people. After the earthquake, measures were taken to achieve the reconstruction of San Juan, an organization was created that faced a regulatory plan for anti-seismic construction since 98% of the constructions of the time were made of adobe.

It can be affirmed that the disastrous effects of the earthquake were due not only to the violence of the movement, but also to the poor quality of the building, due to the absolute absence of legislation or good construction practices. The city had a history of seismic movements in localities of the Cuyo Region, before and after 1900.

The San Juan earthquake in 1944 destroyed thousands of homes, public buildings, communal and historical works, and the economy of a large part of the population, which represented the heritage accumulated over several generations, without counting the loss of thousands of people, the chronicles from that time they speak of about 10 thousand. The seismic event left a balance of thousands of orphaned children, registered by families from different parts of the country as their own children? At that time there was no Adoption Law? and no record of it was ever made.

The day after the earthquake, Perón – new Secretary of Labor – announces on national television a large collection to help the victims. A great mobilization took place to collect them; people lined up to leave money or things; activities were also organized to raise funds.

The National Executive Power came to the aid of the province of San Juan and created the Reconstruction Council of San Juan, dependent on the Ministry of the Interior. This undertook actions to address the emergency, including the construction of precarious neighborhoods, thus 25 neighborhoods emerged in suburban areas “mainly to the west and south.” In Greater San Juan, 7,794 homes were built, while 1,930 more were built in the departments.


After several national decrees to normalize aid for the reconstruction of San Juan, Law 12,865 granted the province a subsidy, which was increased on several later occasions. Between 1948 and 1961, the entity carried out the housing plan for 1,645 houses in the outskirts of the city. Since that date, a plan for the construction of numerous public buildings, schools and urbanization works has also begun.

53 schools, 15 departmental municipalities, 20 police stations, civil registries, justices of the peace, blocks of buildings for the provincial ministries and the direction of schools, courts and other state agencies were built; the model prison; the Felix Aguilar astronomical observatory; the building of the Directorate of Tourism; the construction of five large avenues; street widening; construction of new squares; public electrification and other achievements of no less importance already fully completed.

In addition to these works, decree 773/56 built the Government House, the Police Headquarters, the House of Representatives and the Palace of Courts. The reconstruction work was important because of the subsidies for housing construction.

The work of the Cathedral, the Franklin Library and others of a cultural and religious nature were made possible by the financial support of the Reconstruction Council of San Juan.

The work of the construction police was one of the most important of the Reconstruction Council: it controlled each plan, the concrete calculations and the different stages of the construction of each project presented to its technical offices for approval.

In 1972 and 1973, it gave rise to two institutions: the INPRES (Seismic Prevention Institute) and the DPDU (Urban Planning and Development Directorate). The INPRES centralizes in San Juan the investigations applied to the entire national territory affected by the seismic conditioning.

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